Bruce Draper looking at lab tests

Immune Cells Drive Sex Reversal in Zebrafish – and Perhaps Fertility Loss in Women

Macrophages that normally help with ‘housekeeping’ can also renovate the ovaries into sperm-producing testes

Female zebrafish (Danio rerio) have an unusual tendency: if their egg cells are damaged, they can turn into males. Bruce Draper, a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) and Florence Marlow, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, have discovered that immune cells called macrophages play a key role in this process. These cells normally keep things “tidy” by removing dead or damaged cells – but in zebrafish they can also remodel the ovaries into sperm-producing testes. “It’s a pretty interesting and novel idea,” says Draper. “This is an example where one organ changes into an entirely different organ.”

Draper and his colleagues reported these results November 22 in the journal Science Advances. Their discovery could eventually lead to treatments for the medical condition primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), in which women experience reduced fertility.

Read the full article here.