A group of scientists based in Edinburgh and New York have grown several human oocytes to maturity in vitro, raising hopes of a solution for women at risk of premature fertility loss.
Writing in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction, the researcher team – led by Edinburgh University biologist Evelyn Telfer – describe a method for growing and maturing human oocytes (eggs) within primordial follicles (obtained from biopsies of ovaries) all the way through to oocytes that might be capable of being fertilised.
“The novel aspect of this current work is to have joined [several steps of development] into one continuous process”, said Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Group Leader at The Francis Crick Institute, who was not involved in the study.
Essentially, the suggestion is that scientists may be able to grow eggs from ovarian tissue, all the way from early stages to later development stages, ready for fertilisation by sperm; and that this process could be achieved outside of the human body.
Experts say the research opens the door to a new approach to fertility preservation for women at risk of premature fertility loss – such as those undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
The paper comes in the wake of research into gestation bags for premature neonates, and a renewed interest in the development of embryos in vitro.