Ovarian Aging: Molecular Mechanisms and Medical Management

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jan 29;22(3):1371. doi: 10.3390/ijms22031371.


This is a short review of the basic molecular mechanisms of ovarian aging, written with a particular focus on the use of this data to improve the diagnostic and therapeutic protocols both for women affected by physiological (age-related) ovarian decay and for those suffering premature ovarian insufficiency. Ovarian aging has a genetic basis that conditions the ovarian activity via a plethora of cell-signaling pathways that control the functions of different types of cells in the ovary. There are various factors that can influence these pathways so as to reduce their efficiency. Oxidative stress, often related to mitochondrial dysfunction, leading to the apoptosis of ovarian cells, can be at the origin of vicious circles in which the primary cause feeds back other abnormalities, resulting in an overall decline in the ovarian activity and in the quantity and quality of oocytes. The correct diagnosis of the molecular mechanisms involved in ovarian aging can serve to design treatment strategies that can slow down ovarian decay and increase the quantity and quality of oocytes that can be obtained for an in vitro fertilization attempt. The available treatment options include the use of antioxidants, melatonin, growth hormones, and mitochondrial therapies. All of these treatments have to be considered in the context of each couple's history and current clinical condition, and a customized (patient-tailored) treatment protocol is to be elaborated.

Keywords: age-related ovarian decay; apoptosis; genetics of ovarian aging; growth hormone; melatonin; mitochondrial function; mitochondrial therapy; ovarian aging; oxidative stress; premature ovarian insufficiency; signaling pathways in ovarian aging.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Disease Management
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / pathology
  • Mutation
  • Ovary / cytology
  • Ovary / physiology*
  • Ovary / physiopathology*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / genetics
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / metabolism
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / physiopathology*
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / therapy