Ovary stem cells can create new human eggs
While it has been a long-standing belief that women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, researchers have found that egg cells taken from women’s ovarian tissue can produce more human eggs.
These findings are particularly exciting news for those who suffer from infertility or who are aging and still wish to reproduce.
According to TIME, Jonathan Tilly, director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, conducted eight years of research with ovary stem cells. His colleague, Yasushi Takai, of the Saitama Medical University in Japan, had removed and frozen ovaries from patients undergoing sex-change operations, and thus had 30 preserved sets of ovaries for Tilly to use for his study.
By identifying certain proteins on the surface of cells, Tilly was able to distinguish and separate the appropriate cells. Egg stem cells were tagged with a gene that made them glow and put back into the ovarian tissue samples. They were then transplanted into mice, because putting them into women would have created ethical problems. The stem cells started generating egg cells in the mock-human ovary within a week.
Tilly aims to collaborate with researchers in England to see if the new eggs can be fertilized and create embryos. In the U.K. it is acceptable to fertilize eggs and conduct research on embryos,while in the U.S., it is not.
While these scientific discoveries are certainly far away from being implemented in humans, people in the medical profession are hopeful for the future.
“Not only does this re-write the rule book, it opens up a number of exciting possibilities for preserving the fertility of women undergoing treatment for cancer, or just maybe for women who are suffering infertility by extracting these cells and making her new eggs in the lab,” said fertility expert Dr. Allan Pacey, as reported by BBC News.
Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynecologist and director of in-vitro fertilization, also hailed this groundbreaking research. ”If this research is confirmed it may overturn one of the great asymmetries of reproductive biology – that a woman’s reproductive pool of gametes may be renewable, just like a man’s,” he said.