Published: Sat, February 10, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Scientists grow human eggs to full maturity in laboratory

Scientists grow human eggs to full maturity in laboratory

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the Center for Human Reproduction in NY have successfully grown human eggs in a laboratory in a major scientific breakthrough.

While it's not readily apparent whether or not this new discovery regarding lab-grown human eggs is immediately practically applicable, it's still "extraordinarily important", according to Kyle Orwig, a stem cell biologist not involved in the study who is based at the Magee-Womens Research Institute at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, and who spoke to Science Magazine.

Scientists will now focus on examining how healthy the eggs are and whether they can be fertilised. These eggs mature with time and each month during menstruation, a mature egg is released from the ovary.

The researchers removed young eggs from a woman and grew them in a lab to the point where they were ready to be fertilised.

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After decades of research, scientists can now grow eggs to maturity outside of the ovary, the report said. "It also promises to preserve the fertility of women undergoing aggressive cancer treatment". Currently, to preserve their fertility ovarian tissue is taken before treatment and frozen for later implantation. The lab-grown human eggs could provide a much safer and more viable option to improve human fertility in affected populations.

Close-up of the eggs in development. Of the 48 eggs that reached the penultimate step of the process, nine reached full maturity.

A technique developed by researchers in NY and Edinburgh may change that.

"The patient has to go through the quick cycle of IVF before their chemo, so it can sometimes delay things, and also you may only get 15 eggs or so; because IVF is so inefficient, only having 10 or 15 eggs is not going to guarantee them a baby", said Lavery.

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"It's very exciting to obtain proof of principle that it's possible to reach this stage in human tissue", Evelyn Telfer, a biology professor at the University of Edinburgh who helped develop the eggs, told the BBC. In the lab-grown eggs, the polar bodies appeared strangely large, perhaps hinting at a problem.

The breakthrough could not only provide women with new method of fertility preservation, but help us further understand the process of human egg development.

He said: "This study demonstrates that there is much laboratory research to be undertaken before we can be encouraged to believe that we will achieve healthy normal eggs for clinical purposes in vitro developed follicles derived from human ovarian cortical tissue".

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