Using ovarian tissue from ten people in their late 20s and 30s, scientists at two research hospitals in Edinburgh and the Center for Human Reproduction in New York have for the first time successfully taken human eggs from their earliest stages to the point at which they could be fertilized in a lab setting, outside the human body.
The new research gives hope to individuals at risk of premature fertility loss due to radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Currently, only women who have gone through puberty and are producing eggs can have ovarian tissue removed ahead of treatment and re-implanted at a later date.
But there is still a lot of work to do before this procedure could be used in practice. Scientists have to find out whether human eggs remain normal during the process, and can be fertilized to form embryos that could lead to healthy babies.
"Being able to fully develop human eggs in the lab could widen the scope of available fertility treatments. We are now working on optimizing the conditions that support egg development in this way and studying how healthy they are," said Evelyn Telfer, who co-led the work.
The research was published in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction on Friday. Darren Griffin, a genetics professor at Kent University in the UK, said it was "an impressive technical achievement", as reported by Reuters.