Fertility 'breakthrough' as human eggs grown in lab

Feb 10, 2018, 02:02
Fertility 'breakthrough' as human eggs grown in lab

Women at risk of premature fertility loss might have cause for new hope as researchers reveal that human eggs can be developed in the lab from their earliest stages to maturity.

The applications of these lag-grown human eggs include women who have undergone chemotherapy, which has the potential to damage eggs beyond fix. They accomplished this feat; however, the eggs have yet to be fertilized.

Telfer cautioned that more work is needed before growing eggs to maturity outside the ovary could be used clinically. And pre-puberty girls don't produce mature eggs that could be frozen.

It calls for careful control of laboratory conditions including oxygen levels, hormones, proteins that simulate growth and the medium in which the eggs are cultured.

Reuters reports the scientific breakthrough was announced Friday in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction.

But Professor Simon Fishel, founder and president of leading IVF treatment providers CARE Fertility, said further research was needed to establish whether eggs developed using the method could be healthy. Both the egg and the sperm need to contain half of the genes so that when they combine, they can make one whole fertilized egg with no extra genetic material.

Professor Evelyn Telfer, lead researcher on the project, told the BBC: "It's very exciting to obtain proof of principle that it's possible to reach this stage in human tissue".

It is also seen as an opportunity to study how human eggs develop, which mostly remains a mystery to science. Then, in 2015, a group of researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago created mature eggs from these partially developed follicles.

In certain cases, such as when a woman is fighting cancer and needs to undergo sterilizing chemotherapy as soon as possible, there is simply no way to ensure that she can subsequently have a baby of her own.

The study explained how human eggs develop at various stages, which could aid research into other infertility treatments and regenerative medicine.

Immature eggs recovered from patients' ovarian tissue could be matured in the lab and stored for later fertilisation.

Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynecologist at Hammersmith Hospital, said, "This work represents a genuine step forward in our understanding".

"Although still in small numbers and requiring optimisation, this preliminary work offers hope for patients".

The major breakthrough could pave the way for a new era of fertility treatments.