Human eggs grown in lab for the first time in infertility 'breakthrough'


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.

Darren Griffin, professor of genetics at the University of Kent, says: The main "selling point" of this paper is that, in the past, the authors have been successful in developing 2 stages of the process through which ovary material can be taken and an egg ready for fertilisation can be produced. Self-driving cars are closer to becoming a normal thing than ever before, robots are changing the way we have sex, and now human eggs are able to be grown in a laboratory.

While the breakthrough is huge news for people who might be struggling to start a family, experts in the field have called for caution.

Professor Evelyn Telfer, personal chair in reproductive biology at the university's school of biological sciences, said: "Being able to fully develop human eggs in the lab could widen the scope of available fertility treatments".

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Traditionally, cancer patients can have a piece of ovary removed before chemotherapy, but reimplanting the tissue later may risk reintroducing cancer.

But Dr Ali Abbara, of London's Imperial College, said: "Much more work is needed to make sure it's safe".

Lavery added the new technique could also prove useful for women who have passed through puberty.

Additionally, the researchers say insights into the development of human eggs at various stages provided by the study could help research into other infertility treatments.

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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. We are working to optimize the conditions that support the development of the egg and study their health. While these women can have mature eggs collected before treatment, that approach also has problems.

Professor Daniel Brison, of the department of reproduction at the University of Manchester, said: 'This is an exciting breakthrough which shows for the first time that complete development of human eggs in the laboratory is possible, more than 20 years after this was achieved in mice.

And Robin Lovell-Badge of The Francis Crick Institute said the procedure was "really quite inefficient", with only nine out of dozens of early-stage cells becoming mature eggs.

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

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