Huge Breakthrough In Fertility Research

2_9_Human Eggs

In a revolutionary first for science and medicine, human eggs have successfully been grown in a laboratory in the United Kingdom.

Darren Griffin, professor of genetics at the University of Kent, says: The main "selling point" of this paper is that, in the past, the authors have been successful in developing 2 stages of the process through which ovary material can be taken and an egg ready for fertilisation can be produced.

Earlier, scientists have managed to develop mice ovules and obtain live descendants, as well as mature human ovules from a later stage of oocyte development.

Some cancer patients now have a piece of their ovary removed before treatment and re-implanted later. But it poses the risk of reintroducing cancerous cells from parts of the body which may be hidden in ovarian tissue.

It's good to see research into new ways that might maintain fertility. Stuart Lavery, of Hammersmith Hospital, said: "This preliminary work offers hope for patients ahead of sterilising treatments, such as chemotherapy, that they will be able to be parents later in life".

2_9_Human Eggs development

Experts said it was an exciting breakthrough, but more work was needed before it could be used clinically.

Writing in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction, researchers from Edinburgh and NY describe how they took ovarian tissue from 10 women in their late twenties and thirties and, over four steps involving different cocktails of nutrients, encouraged the eggs to develop from their earliest form to maturity.

'Some young women do not relish the idea of having an ovarian tissue transplant so this gives us more options for fertility preservation or restoration.' Professor Telfer said the treatment could have wider uses, adding: 'In theory you could get a lot more eggs than you get through hormonal stimulation, and you would not have to go through multiple cycles. While these women can have mature eggs collected before treatment, that approach also has problems. We are working to optimize the conditions that support the development of the egg and study their health.

However, it will be many years before the research leads to new fertility preservation treatments.

"This latest breakthrough is valuable, [but] significant further research is now needed to confirm that these eggs are healthy and functioning as they should do", said Prof Helen Picton, an expert in reproduction and early development from the University of Leeds. "We also hope to find out, subject to regulatory approval, whether they can be fertilised".

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