February 25, 2018

Human Eggs Developed to Maturity in the Lab for the First Time

10 February 2018, 01:45 | Rodolfo Wallace

Breakthrough as human eggs developed in the lab for first time

Hopes growing after fertility treatment breakthrough

Telfer and her team recognize that they need to refine the process to ensure that these lab-grown eggs are just as healthy as those inside a woman's body.

According to experts the research could be especially relevant for girls who have not gone through puberty.

Some cancer patients now have a piece of their ovary removed before treatment and re-implanted later.

In a massive breakthrough, human eggs have been fully grown in a lab in a world first.

A team at the University of Edinburgh, working with NY scientists, developed fully grown human eggs in a laboratory using small immature egg cells removed from ovary tissue, according to a report in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction. But the fact that it could be done at all is a huge step forward in developmental biology: Previous teams had been able to coax eggs to various stages of maturity in the lab, but none to completion.

Modern medical technology allows mature eggs to be extracted and frozen for years, until a patient wants to use them for an IVF procedure. Step two: eggs more than doubled in size. Evelyn Telfer, one of the researchers, said, "It's very exciting to obtain proof of principle that it's possible to reach this stage in human tissue". The researchers then moved the follicles containing eggs through three more culture steps, adding several different chemicals that encourage development.

Magnification of a lab-grown, fully matured human egg ready for fertilization. Before reaching this level of maturity, eggs can not be fertilised.

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The technique has potential uses, but it still requires refinement.

Telfer, who worked alongside scientists from the Center for Human Reproduction in NY, grew the eggs using samples collected from 10 women who chose to undergo caesarian sections. Prof Telfer explained that a lot of improvement in the steps is necessary before they can flawless this technique.

The applications of these lag-grown human eggs include women who have undergone chemotherapy, which has the potential to damage eggs beyond fix.

There has been a cautious welcome for the news from one of Ireland's leading fertility experts.

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, a group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, was also cautious, noting it was possible that not all of the eggs were at the earliest stage of development to start with.

Also, egg quality has not been tested as none have been fertilised.

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

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