An article published yesterday (26th February) in ‘Nature Medicine’ holds out exciting possibilities for the future of fertility treatment in women.
It has always been thought that women were born with their full complement of potential eggs in their ovaries and that these steadily declined throughout life until falling to zero at the menopause. However, researchers in USA have shown that it is possible to find stem cells in adult women which can produce egg cells in the laboratory.
Reproductive biologist Jonathan Tilly of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston reported isolating rare cells in ovarian tissue from adult women that can grow in laboratory dishes and form immature oocytes (egg cells). The potential egg stem cells could help scientists devise new ways to help rescue the fertility of women who have to undergo cancer treatments or who suffer from premature menopause.
There is still a massively long way to go before this discovery can be translated into definite clinical treatments, but it is exciting that it holds out the potential of innovative new possibilities particularly for young women facing sterilising treatment such as chemotherapy.