Page URL:

Human eggs grown using 'ovary stem cells'

8 May 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 307

US researchers have managed to grow human eggs in the laboratory, using cells scraped from the surface of ovaries. The team, based at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, say that the findings could lead to a new way of preserving female fertility, and also a potential new source of egg cells for embryonic stem cell (ES) research. The scientists, who published their results in the open access journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, also say that the research casts doubt on the long-held belief that baby girls are born with a lifetime's supply of mature eggs.

It is thought that a woman's ovaries contain about two million egg-producing follicles at birth, but that this number falls to around 400,000 by the time she reaches puberty, and continues to drop throughout her life. However, recent studies have challenged this dogma, suggesting that new egg cells and granulosa cells (which form the wall of the ovary follicles) may originate from stem cells found on the surface of adult ovaries. To test this theory, Antonin Bukovsky and his colleagues scraped off some of these cells, known as ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) cells, and grew them in the laboratory for five to six days. They took the cells from the ovaries of five women aged 39 to 52, using a laparoscopy technique.

By growing them in the presence of the female hormone oestrogen, the scientists found that they could persuade the OSE cells to grow into mature egg cells, capable of being fertilised and developing into an embryo. The team say that the technique used to harvest the OSE cells is relatively easy, and has several potential uses in assisted reproduction. For example, OSE cells could be taken from young women about to undergo cancer treatment that could leave them infertile, and frozen for later use in IVF procedures. The approach could also help women at risk of premature menopause, and might eventually be used to delay the menopause by 10 to 12 years in fertile women, the researchers claim.

US reproductive biologist Jonathon Tilly called the study 'intriguing', and worthy of further investigation. However, he cautioned that 'making things in a dish is very different to making things in a human body'. He cited reports from three groups that have used ES cells from mice to create egg and sperm cells in the laboratory, but have not been able to produce offspring using this method - suggesting that 'whatever is being created in the dish is not normal sperm and eggs'. UK fertility expert Simon Fishel also stressed that the work was at a very early stage, but said if confirmed, 'it is possible that it could help pre-menopausal women and women coming up to their menopause having IVF, who currently have to use egg donors'.

Eggs grown in lab 'may delay menopause for 12 years'
The Daily Telegraph |  5 May 2005
Making human eggs with stem cell research, postponing the menopause
Medical News Today |  6 May 2005
Menopause delay 'a possibility'
BBC News Online |  4 May 2005
Oogenesis in cultures derived from adult human ovaries
Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology |  5 May 2005
27 February 2012 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Scientists in the USA have shown it may be possible to isolate egg-producing stem cells from women's ovaries....
20 September 2010 - by Matthew Smart 
A new way to restore ovarian function in rats has been discovered, scientists say, which may lead to future treatments for women with premature ovarian failure (POF)...
20 April 2009 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
New work in stem cell research has challenged the long-standing belief that women are born with all the eggs they will ever need. The results were published in the journal Nature Stem Cell, although the study was received with caution. The scientists at Shanghai Jiao Tong University...
21 May 2007 - by Stuart Scott 
Hopes aroused by a controversial study suggesting that women may be able to produce new egg cells have been seemingly dashed. The 2005 paper, published in the journal Cell by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, fleetingly gave hope to infertile women when it suggested that egg production...
16 June 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
A new US study has cast serious doubt on controversial research that suggested bone marrow stem cells can produce new eggs in adult mice. Last year, a team based at Massachusetts General Hospital reported in the journal Cell that the eggs of mice rendered sterile could...
5 July 2004 - by BioNews 
The ovaries of adult mice contain egg-generating germ cells, scientists revealed at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology's annual conference. The results have prompted hopes of a treatment for women with few eggs, such as those treated for cancer or nearing menopause. The discovery had been published in...
15 March 2004 - by BioNews 
Mammals may continue to produce new eggs throughout their lives, a study carried out on mice suggests. The findings challenge the long-held belief that female humans, mice and other mammals are born with a finite supply of eggs, which lasts until the menopause. A team of researchers at the Massachusetts...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.