As reported in Science Magazine, researchers have developed eggs in a laboratory setting from immature human egg cells—and in just 22 days compared to the average five months in the body. While more research needs to be done, the potential exists for new fertility treatment options, helping people with infertility and reproductive issues.
The process started in 2008 when Evelyn Telfer, a reproductive biologist, and her colleagues at the University of Edinburgh grew primordial follicles into a semi-developed state. In women past the age of puberty, these follicles envelope the immature precursors to egg cells until they are mature enough to be released during menses.
In 2015, researchers at Northwestern University were then able to develop mature eggs from the semi-developed follicles. This was achieved by taking follicles from samples of ovarian tissue and isolating them in a mixture of nutrients. Finally, they extracted the immature eggs from their follicles and matured them on a special membrane with additional proteins for growth. Eventually nine eggs were able to divide in preparation for fertilization.
The implications, of course, for women undergoing cancer treatments or certain forms of infertility could be astounding. However, as reported online in January in “Molecular Human Reproduction,” genetic testing was not included and other issues are pause for concern.
Bradford Kolb, MD, FACOG feels that, while we need to continue to advance fertility treatment options, the concerned reactions by other scientists to the work are valid. For example, we may need to develop additional mechanisms for determining the vitality and quality of the eggs, along with testing the mitochondria within the cells, which assist in providing energy at the most basic level.
And it’s equally important, says Dr. Kolb, to be proactive in fertility preservation. “Egg banking and the possible freezing of ovarian tissue should now be part of overall family planning.”
To find out more about existing treatment options, visit our ARTpage.