Human eggs grown to maturity in lab, say researchers


Although various teams have achieved different stages of the process before, the new work is the first time researchers have taken the same human eggs all the way from their earliest stages to the point at which they would be released from the ovaries. Although more work is needed, the breakthrough finding has the potential to improve fertility treatments.

"The study has also given insight into how human eggs develop at various stages, which could aid research into other infertility treatments and regenerative medicine".

The applications of these lag-grown human eggs include women who have undergone chemotherapy, which has the potential to damage eggs beyond fix. Figuring out how to allow the eggs to fully mature in such a way for humans has proved to be much more hard, partially because our tissue is more complicated than mouse tissue, Telfer explained to theNew Scientist. Such a step had previously been taken in mice.

This new breakthrough in creating mature eggs in the laboratory could mean that childhood cancer survivors can also preserve their fertility, say the researchers.

The research could "transform the ease with which women can undergo IVF by simply requiring a small tissue biopsy rather than traumatic rounds of hormone-triggered ovulation", The Daily Telegraph says. From those samples, they collected 310 "primordial follicles", a tightly packed structure that has the ability to produce an egg cell.

But, according to experts, though the scientists have shown it is possible, the approach published in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction still needs to be refined as it is very inefficient with only 10 per cent of eggs completing their journey to maturity. In the third step the cells developed over a nutrient rich membrane and they matured fully in the fourth step.

"We had no great expectations".

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The next step is to fertilize the eggs, which would then reveal how viable they truly are.

Telfer admits far more research is necessary, and hopes to get regulatory approval for future research.

"What it means for us is that we now have the opportunity to stage the whole process of human egg development which we have never really had".

But scientists have now been able to successfully grow eggs to maturity outside of ovary, after decades of work.