Human eggs grown in a lab for the first time


In a remarkable milestone, researchers have grown human eggs from their earliest stages to maturity in a laboratory for the very first time. A similar venture has previously been achieved with mouse eggs, even using the lab-grown eggs to create live mice offspring.

It would allow them to freeze early-stage egg cells before undergoing treatment, to be matured in the lab at a later time to be fertilised with sperm to make a baby.

"[For young girls] that is the only option they have to preserve their fertility, " said professor Evelyn Telfer, co-author of the research from the University of Edinburgh, The Guardian reported.

But the approach has drawbacks.

Currently, cancer patients may have a piece of ovary removed and frozen before chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Further research will be necessary to see if the eggs can be used to grow human embryos.

This latest work, by scientists at two research hospitals in Edinburgh and the Center for Human Reproduction in NY, is the first time human eggs have been developed outside the human body from their earliest stage to full maturity.

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Experts have pointed out that the treatment is inefficient, with only around 10% of the eggs developing to full maturity.

The next step now is seeing if these mature eggs can be fertilised in a healthy and safe way, for which the team at Edinburgh will have to obtain a licence from the relevant authorities. Step two: eggs more than doubled in size.

Scientists and medical experts worked together to develop suitable substances in which eggs could be grown - known as culture mediums - to support each stage of cell development.

It's a revolution and for the first time, human eggs have been developed outside the human body from their earliest stage to full maturity. After the onset of puberty, the follicles rupture once per month in order to release a mature egg for fertilization. They accomplished this feat; however, the eggs have yet to be fertilized. "With this [new] procedure, you could potentially get thousands or hundreds of eggs".

Much more work needs to be done before this breakthrough leads to any clinical applications, and while many researchers recognize the milestone achievement, they also suggest there are many important questions yet to be answered.

The major breakthrough could pave the way for a new era of fertility treatments. Here, they have, through meticulous experimentation, worked out how to complete the third and final stage.

Mitinori Saitou, a stem cell biologist at Kyoto University in Japan who was not involved in the study, tells Science that because the paper includes no genetic analysis of the eggs, it's not clear if they are healthy and will function normally.