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Lab Grown Eggs Could Lead to New Fertility Treatments

Lab grown eggs and new fertility treatments

May 1, 2019
Bridget Houlihan

A new study has successfully reproduced human egg cells in a laboratory environment. The researchers were able to take a cell at its earliest stage and have it reach its full growth potential up until when fertilization might be possible. The study was conducted by the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh, The Center for Human Reproduction in New York, and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and was lead by Professor Evelyn Telfer-- and was the first of its kind to have human egg cells mature successfully in the laboratory. In this article we’ll examine:

  • How the researchers accomplished this
  • What this means for fertility and for science

scientist and microscope
Human egg cells have been successfully grown in a lab environment.

How did the scientists grow eggs?

The scientists in this study were building on years of research that had been done on mice eggs-- which was over 30 years worth. These trials were able to successfully mature mice eggs so that they were capable of creating a living offspring. The previous research also showed that human eggs had been successfully developed in the lab-- but from a much later stage in their development. This particular study is so interesting because it was the first of its kind to mature human egg cells from an earlier stage in their development.

Not only did this study show that eggs grown in a lab are possible-- it also shed new light on how these cells develop at each stage. The researchers were able to observe changes that either had not been known previously-- or were understudied. In order to grow the eggs, scientists created specific culture mediums in which the eggs would develop. This allowed them the opportunity to nurture and support the cells at each stage.

DNA double helix
This new study offers some good news for those going through infertility treatment.

What this means for fertility-- and science

The scientists’ success at growing human eggs is great news for all those people affected by infertility-- as well as other people who have been unable to conceive due to medical treatments. Now that there is a successful way to grow egg cells, it means that girls undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment can now have their immature ovarian tissue removed and matured in a lab. Previously, this tissue was removed and stored-- however if it was reintroduced, it came with the threat of developing cancer again.

By creating fully formed eggs-- to the point they are ready for fertilization-- is a huge step forward for new infertility treatments as well. Professor Telfer stated that, “Being able to fully develop human eggs in the lab could widen the scope of available fertility treatments.” In addition to fertility options, this study should spark additional research into cell development and the ethics regarding their fertilization.

This groundbreaking study is great news for those people struggling with infertility-- and who have not been successful with the treatments available. People with serious medical issues such as cancer can now have the opportunity to keep their eggs in a lab until maturity without the risk of reintroducing cancer.


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