Viewpoint: Stem cells could produce unlimited eggs to aid future fertility treatment


Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that it could be possible for stem cells in adult women to produce new eggs in the laboratory.

Experiments showed that these eggs could be fertilised, suggesting that it could be developed for potential new infertility treatment in the future.

Dr Dharani Hapangama, from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine, works on a similar area of study, investigating adult stem cells and how they could be used to create a new lining of the womb.

Dr Hapangama explains the impact of the Massachusetts study: “At birth all women have a fixed number of oocytes or eggs in their ovaries that are lost with time. Until now it has been thought that women lose the ability to produce new eggs even before they are born and once all eggs are lost, no new eggs can be produced.

“This new study from Massachusetts has shown that cells isolated from the ovaries of adult women have stem cell properties that can give rise to oocytes. They demonstrated that the oocyte stem cells are able to produce new eggs.

“The other important limiting factor in female infertility is the inability of a normally fertilised egg or an embryo to be implanted in the lining of the womb, called the endometrium.

“Even when the best embryos are introduced in to a woman’s womb, only 30% successfully implant. We believe that the endometrium controls the successful embryo implantation by up to 70%.

“Currently we cannot create a new lining of the womb in women who fail to conceive despite having good embryos placed in their womb when undergoing fertility treatment.

“Researchers at the University and Liverpool Women’s Hospital have the only laboratory in the UK with an active research programme working identifying an adult stem cell from the endometrium to grow a new endometrial lining.

“We have in the laboratory for the first time, recently been able to isolate a specific cell from the endometrium of adult women which grows into a three dimensional endometrial gland-like structure.

“We hope further characterisation of these endometrial stem cells will help a large number of women not only those having difficulties with achieving a pregnancy, but also those suffering with a variety of gynaecological conditions from recurrent miscarriage, endometriosis, heavy periods to endometrial cancer.”

For further information on the news story, please visit the BBC website:

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