Human eggs have been matured in the lab for the first time by researchers in a UK and US collaboration.
This has only ever been achieved in mice before leading to the birth of live young. The research team hope that this breakthrough will develop our understanding of how a human egg is developed and will help advance the treatment of infertility.
“The research team had previously developed a protocol wherein they could take eggs in later stages of development and bring them to maturity, and they expanded that protocol in an attempt to develop eggs from start to finish in the lab. They took samples of ovarian tissue from 10 women while they were undergoing caesarean section surgery and cultured sections of that tissue that have the ability to release an egg, structures known as follicles. The follicles were cultured in a multi-step procedure that allowed for eggs to develop. At the end of each step, follicles, and eventually eggs, that had successfully matured further were moved to the following step.
The team initially isolated 87 follicles and by the end of the 21-day procedure, nine eggs reached a stage of maturity that would in theory allow them to be fertilized with sperm and develop into an embryo.” Mallery Lockear, Engadget.com
“…the team is now working on optimizing this process and evaluating how healthy the resulting eggs are. One next step is to try to fertilize the eggs with sperm to see if they can result in a viable embryo — work that requires a licence that the team doesn’t yet have.” Evelyn Telfer, researcher, University of Edinburgh (study leader)