Medical

Scientists grow human eggs to full maturity in a lab

Scientists grow human eggs to full maturity in a lab

In a remarkable milestone, researchers have grown human eggs from their earliest stages to maturity in a laboratory for the very first time.

The egg cells were developed right from the earliest stages in ovarian tissue all the way to full maturity.

This had previously been achieved with mouse egg cells, while human eggs had been successfully cultivated starting from a much later stage of development.

While the breakthrough is huge news for people who might be struggling to start a family, experts in the field have called for caution.

The University of Edinburgh academics will now look at whether they can be fertilised. Conventionally, cancer patients can have a piece of ovary removed before treatment, but reimplanting this tissue can risk reintroducing cancer.

Experts said it was an exciting breakthrough, but more work was needed before it could be used clinically. Among other issues, the authors note that the eggs developed faster than they would in the body, while a small cell known as a polar body - ejected in the final stages of the egg's development when the number of chromosomes is halved - was unusually large, which might suggest abnormal development.

Hopes growing after fertility treatment breakthrough
Human eggs have been grown outside of the body - how was it done and what could they be used for?

Modern medical technology allows mature eggs to be extracted and frozen for years, until a patient wants to use them for an IVF procedure.

And the eggs have not been fertilised, so it is uncertain how viable they are. 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".

A technique developed by researchers in NY and Edinburgh may change that.

The study - published in the Molecular Human Reproduction journal - represents the first time a human egg has been developed in the laboratory from earliest stage to full 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.

In vitro growth of eggs may also be used to treat conditions that prevent women from producing mature eggs. This knowledge could boost understanding of infertility treatments and regenerative medicine. "We also hope to find out, subject to regulatory approval, whether they can be fertilized".





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