February 25, 2018

Human eggs grown to maturity in the lab for the first time

09 February 2018, 03:12 | Winifred Adams

Hopes growing after fertility treatment breakthrough

Lab-grown human egg

In a revolutionary first for science and medicine, human eggs have successfully been grown in a laboratory in the United Kingdom. According to the reports, earlier, the scientists had developed mouse eggs in a laboratory to the stage where they produced live offspring.

Her team will next seek to ideal the process before seeking legal permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to attempt to fertilise the lab-grown eggs.

They say the technique could safeguard the fertility of girls with cancer who may need to undergo harmful treatments. Experts said that much more work was needed to ensure the process was safe for humans.

Growing human egg cells to full maturity in the lab holds promise for women who have to go through sterilising treatments such as chemotherapy. The study reported on Friday in the journal "Molecular Human Reproduction" was the first time that the approach has been used on human eggs, the University of Edinburgh said in a statement.

It would be legal to fertilize one of the eggs made in the lab to create an embryo for research purposes, but the Edinburgh team needs a license to carry this experiment to that next step.

Decades of work have finally shown that scientists can grow eggs to maturity outside of the ovary, under strict laboratory conditions such as controlled oxygen levels, hormones, proteins that mimic growth, and the substance in which eggs are cultivated.

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'Some young women do not relish the idea of having an ovarian tissue transplant so this gives us more options for fertility preservation or restoration.' Professor Telfer said the treatment could have wider uses, adding: 'In theory you could get a lot more eggs than you get through hormonal stimulation, and you would not have to go through multiple cycles.

This procedure could not only benefit young women who experience premature fertility loss, but mature women who seek to do in vitro fertilization.

However, it will be many years before the research leads to new fertility preservation treatments.

But Professor Simon Fishel, founder and president of leading IVF treatment providers CARE Fertility, said further research was needed to establish whether eggs developed using the method could be healthy.

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.

"We also hope to find out, subject to regulatory approval, whether they can be fertilised", she said.

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