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Lab-grown egg cells could be fertilised 'within the year' if licence is granted

16 April 2012
Appeared in BioNews 652

The first human egg cells grown in the laboratory from stem cells (reported in BioNews 646) could be fertilised later this year, scientists report.

Researchers are now intending to seek permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to fertilise the eggs in order to test whether they are viable. Should such a study be successful, it would represent a breakthrough in fertility research and could open the door to greatly enhanced fertility for many women.

'We hope to apply for a research license to do the fertilisation of the in vitro-grown oocytes within the IVF unit at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary', said Dr Evelyn Telfer, reproductive biologist at the University of Edinburgh.

The new technique, developed by researchers from Edinburgh University and Harvard Medical School in the USA grows human egg cells using stem cells from donated, frozen ovaries.

Should an HFEA licence be granted and the research go ahead, any fertilised eggs would not be transplanted into the womb, but studied for the legal limit of 14 days before being frozen or allowed to die.

Dr Telfer said that the study could take place later this year. Discussing the research, she said: 'If you can show you can get ovarian stem cells from the human ovary you then have the potential to do more for fertility preservation'.

However, some scientists are sceptical of the claims made in the original paper claiming human egg cells had been derived from ovarian stem cells. Writing in BioNews last month, Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, head of stem cell biology and developmental genetics at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research in London said that even if that study was accurate, 'the authors are a long way from testing the safety and efficiency' of the technique.

Dr Lovell-Badge added that even though research to test these parameters 'is possible with a licence, it would require a change in primary legislation to permit their use for reproductive purposes, which in itself would take several years'.

Experts eye fertility breakthrough
Press Association |  8 April 2012
Human egg cells grown in lab 'could be fertilised'
Telegraph |  7 April 2012
Lab-grown human egg cells could be fertilised
Metro |  7 April 2012
Scientists rewrite rules of human reproduction
Independent |  9 April 2012
Scientists to apply for licence to fertilise human eggs grown in laboratory
Scotsman |  8 April 2012
25 January 2016 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
Chinese researchers have identified genetic mutations that cause infertility in a small number of women...
7 July 2014 - by Siobhan Chan 
Healthy mice have been born using sperm grown in the lab from a sample of cryopreserved testicular tissue...
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?...
25 June 2012 - by Dr Daniel Grimes 
Human embryonic stem cells have, for the first time, been used to grow a crucial part of the eye, a paper in Cell Stem Cell reports. It is hoped that in the future transplantation of such tissue could help visually impaired people recover their sight...
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...
5 March 2012 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Protecting embryos from a laboratory environment during IVF treatment could increase successful pregnancy rates from 35 percent to 45 percent. A novel system, trialled in a recent study, consists of a chain of fully enclosed, interlinked incubators, provides a tightly controlled and protected environment...
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....
6 June 2011 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
British scientists have grown mature eggs from undeveloped ones in the laboratory and are currently seeking permission to fertilise them. The new research gives hope to young girls undergoing treatment for cancer that may leave them infertile...
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