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Eggs could be produced from ovarian stem cells, study suggests

27 February 2012
Appeared in BioNews 646

Scientists in the USA have shown it may be possible to isolate egg-producing stem cells from women's ovaries.

Researchers at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, extracted germline stem cells capable of producing eggs from adult mouse ovaries. The stem cells spontaneously generated eggs in the laboratory, and the researchers were then able to mature the cells using human ovarian tissue grafted inside the mice.

The results, published in Nature Medicine, showed that the eggs, which appeared normal, could potentially be fertilised using sperm to produce embryos.

Lead researcher, Dr Jonathan Tilly, said the study 'opens the door for development of unprecedented technologies to overcome infertility in women'.

'We might get to the point of actually having an unlimited source of human eggs', he said.

The findings, which confirm results from earlier research conducted by Dr Tilly's team, challenge the view that women have a limited number of eggs and are not able to produce more.

'Everything we teach medical students is going to have to change as a consequence of this paper', commented Dr Allan Pacey, chairman of the British Fertility Society.

Mr Stuart Lavery, a consultant gynaecologist and director of IVF Hammersmith, said the findings were 'a potentially landmark piece of research'.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: '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'.

Even if the study findings are confirmed, the research is still in its infancy and is not yet at a stage where it could be used in humans, which may be some years away.

Urging caution, David Keefe, professor of obstetrics at the NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, said: 'Humility is an absolute requirement in this field. You're dealing with people's hopes and dreams'.

Human egg factory offers hope for infertile women
The Metro |  26 February 2012
Oocyte formation by mitotically active germ cells purified from ovaries of reproductive-age women
Nature Medicine |  26 February 2012
Ovary stem cells can produce new eggs, researchers say
LA Times |  26 February 2012
Unlimited human eggs 'potential' for fertility treatment
BBC News |  26 February 2012
8 October 2012 - by Sarah Pritchard 
A team of Japanese researchers has created mouse eggs from stem cells and has fertilised them using IVF to produce baby mice. It is the first time scientists have reported producing properly functioning eggs using this type of stem cell....
3 September 2012 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Stem cells found in human skin can be turned into sperm precursor cells, US researchers have found. The findings could help restore fertility to cancer patients, and could provide a new way of studying the development of sperm cells in the lab...
30 July 2012 - by Professor Robin Lovell-Badge 
Earlier this year, a paper claimed to have found cells, called ovarian stem cells, in the adult ovaries of both mice and humans. These cells could apparently be grown in large numbers in the lab and could retain the ability to give rise to eggs. A new study finds no evidence for the existence of germline progenitors able to produce eggs in postnatal ovaries. Is a lack of evidence sufficient to win the argument?...
16 April 2012 - by Rosemary Paxman 
The first human egg cells grown in the laboratory from stem cells could be fertilised later this year, scientists report...
12 March 2012 - by Professor Robin Lovell-Badge 
I am all for challenging dogma, but to do so requires robust evidence and carefully drawn conclusions. In the case of Professor Jonathan Tilly's much-trumpeted study on stem cells in ovaries that can give rise to eggs, I feel that both were missing...
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...
3 October 2005 - by BioNews 
A US woman who became infertile after cancer treatment has stunned doctors by becoming pregnant naturally, following a transplant of ovarian tissue into her abdomen. Ann Dauer, from Canton, Ohio has now given birth to a healthy baby girl, named Sienna. Mrs Dauer had one of her ovaries removed and...
1 August 2005 - by BioNews 
Bone marrow stem cells can produce new eggs in adult mice, US researchers say. A team based at Massachusetts General Hospital has shown that the eggs of mice rendered sterile with a drug can regenerate within 24 hours, and that these germ cells originate from bone marrow. The findings, published...
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