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Do egg stem cells exist? Definitely not.

A study conducted in Sweden has proven that egg stem cells do not exist, and this study will be analyzed to understand how its results can lead to developments in treating female infertility. However, before understanding the effects of this study, it is essential to first comprehend what stem cells are, what egg cells that are found in the ovaries are, and also what egg stem cells are.

December 23, 2020
Alisha Chunara

This Swedish study will be analyzed to comprehend how its results concerning the nonexistence of egg stem cells can lead to developments in treating female infertility. However, before reviewing and interpreting the outcomes of this Swedish study, it would be beneficial to first clearly understand what stem cells are, what egg cells that are found in the ovaries are, and also what egg stem cells are. 

What are stem cells?

Graphic flow chart of several functions of a stem cell in the human body
A general outline of the various functions of a stem cell. Image courtesy of Ortho Stem Cell Atlanta.

Stem cells are cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated. If stem cells are put under the perfect conditions in the human body or in a laboratory, then stem cells can divide to form more cells called daughter cells. These daughter cells can become either new stem cells, or self-renewal cells, or specialized cells, or differentiation cells. These specialized cells have more distinct functions. Examples of specialized cells include brian cells, blood cells, bone cells, or heart muscle cells. A stem cell is the only type of cell in the human body that has the natural capability to produce new cell types.

Where do stem cells come from?

Researchers have determined that stem cells come from several sources:

  • Embryonic stem cells: These stem cells come from embryos that are three to five days old.
  • Adult stem cells: These stem cells are found in small quantities in most human adult tissues, such as fat or bone marrow. Adult stem cells have a more restricted capacity to generate various cells of the body, compared to embryonic stem cells. 
  • Adult cells altered to have properties of embryonic stem cells (induced pluripotent stem cells): Using genetic reprogramming, scientists have successfully modified regular adult cells into stem cells. In genetic reprogramming, scientists altered the genes in the adult cells to reprogram the regular adult cells to function identically to embryonic stem cells.
  • Perinatal stem cells: Stem cells have been found in amniotic fluid as well as in umbilical cord blood by researchers. The stem cells found in these substances can also change into specialized cells.

Now that you know all about stem cells, it would be advantageous to understand what egg cells are.

What are egg cells?

Image of a red egg cell on the left and small black colored sperm cells swimming towards the red egg cell
An egg cell is the other part of the two components needed to form a baby. Image courtesy of cK-12.

Here are some facts about the female egg cell:

An egg cell is released every cycle

Ovulation refers to when a woman releases an egg cell in every cycle. On the other hand, when ovulation does not occur in a normal menstrual cycle, the cycle is called an anovulatory cycle. Some women can release two egg cells per cycle, which can result in the conception of paternal or fraternal twins. Identical twins are created when a fertilized egg cell divides into two. Hormonal birth control works by preventing the egg cell from being released, thereby suppressing ovulation and preventing a pregnancy. 

The female egg cell has a short life after ovulation

Once ovulation has occurred, the released female egg cell will begin to deteriorate very quickly and the fertile window will commence to close. After 12 to 24 hours, the egg cell will die and it will not be possible to become pregnant again until the next cycle, so because of this condition, it is best to conceive the day before ovulation.

Now that you are aware about what an egg cell is, now it is time to review the study.

The study

Microscopic graphic image of yellow-colored cells
After examining the various types of cells found in the ovary, researchers have found that egg stem cells are not present in the ovary, but perivascular cells are. Image courtesy of Phys.org.

At Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, researchers created a complete cell map of the human ovary in order to prove whether egg stem cells exist or not. Some research has claimed that egg stem cells exist, and some studies have refuted the notion that egg stem cells exist. However, the results of this Swedish study, published in Nature Communications, minutely examined all cell types found in the human ovary and concluded that egg stem cells do not exist.

The findings from this study can further developments in research on enhanced methods of treating involuntary childlessness and female infertility, because stem cells have properties that are different from other cells. Now, scientists can focus on manipulating the egg cells that already exist in the ovaries to find treatments to cure female infertility and involuntary childlessness by considering letting egg cells mature in test tubes or growing artificial ovaries in a laboratory. 

Don’t look at the results of this study in a negative light; instead think that a somewhat unsubstantiated claim has been put to rest, and that you should focus your energies on treatments for female infertility and involuntary childlessness that are more likely to solve your situation. 

Image courtesy of WhatCulture.


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