Fertility Breakthrough, Growing Human Eggs In a Lab
Major Breakthrough In Fertility Treatments
Scientists have succeeded for the first time in growing human eggs in a laboratory from the earliest stages in ovarian tissue all the way to full maturity.
Publishing their result in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction on Friday, scientists from Britain and the United States said it could one day help in developing regenerative medicine therapies and new infertility treatments.
This latest work, by scientists at two research hospitals in Edinburgh and the Center for Human Reproduction in New York, is the first time human eggs have been developed outside the human body from their earliest stage to full maturity.
“Being able to fully develop human eggs in the lab could widen the scope of available fertility treatments. We are now working on optimizing the conditions that support egg development in this way and studying how healthy they are,” said Evelyn Telfer, who co-led the work.
Independent experts not directly involved in this work praised it as important, but also cautioned that there is much more to do before lab-grown human eggs could be safely be made ready for fertilisation with sperm.
“This early data suggests this may well be feasible in the future,” said Ali Abbara, a senior clinical lecturer in Endocrinology at Imperial College London.
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Preserving fertility, especially for cancer patients is extremely important, with sometimes treatment being delayed in order to harvest eggs. Now, with this new breakthrough, harvesting could take hours, instead of weeks, and life saving treatments being able to begin immediately.
While further testing is needed to determine if the eggs can be fertilized and to see whether they produce healthy embryos. Other infertility treatments such as cryopreservation, or freezing eggs, have developed rapidly. And that leaves her optimistic that lab-grown eggs will eventually be used as part of infertility treatments.
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The Future of Fertility
Evelyn Telfer is a co-leader of the research. She told the Reuters news service, “Being able to fully develop human eggs in the [laboratory] could widen the scope of fertility treatments. We are now working on optimizing the conditions that support egg development in this way and studying how healthy they are.”
Independent experts not directly involved in this work supported it by calling it important. But they also warned that there is much more to do before laboratory-grown human eggs could be safely made ready for reproduction with sperm.
Ali Abbara is a medical expert at Imperial College London. He said this latest research suggests it may be possible to fully combine human eggs and sperm outside the body in the future.
“[But] the technology remains at an early stage,” he added. “And much more work is needed to make sure that the technique is safe and optimized before we ascertain whether these eggs remain normal during the process, and can…form embryos that could lead to healthy babies.”
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