Health Care

Hopes growing after fertility treatment breakthrough

Hopes growing after fertility treatment breakthrough

This section can then be re-implanted later to grow if the person wishes to start a family.

Her team will next seek to flawless the process before seeking legal permission from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to attempt to fertilise the lab-grown eggs.

Writing in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction, researchers from Edinburgh and NY describe how they took ovarian tissue from 10 women in their late twenties and thirties and, over four steps involving different cocktails of nutrients, encouraged the eggs to develop from their earliest form to maturity.

However, putting the tissue back carries a risk of reintroducing cancer. Before reaching this level of maturity, eggs can not be fertilised.

The study, carried out by the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh, the Centre for Human Reproduction in NY and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, was supported by the Medical Research Council.

Growing human egg cells to full maturity in the lab holds promise for women who have to go through sterilising treatments such as chemotherapy.

An egg needs to lose half its genetic material during development, otherwise there would be too much DNA when it was fertilised by a sperm. This knowledge could boost understanding of infertility treatments and regenerative medicine.

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"The full development of human ovules in the laboratory can widen the range of treatments available to increase fertility".

Women are born with immature eggs in their ovaries that can develop fully only after puberty.

"But that has to be tempered by the whole lot of work needed to improve the culture conditions and test the quality of the oocytes [eggs]".

Scientists have grown human eggs in a laboratory for the first time - a breakthrough that could have huge implications for fertility treatment.

The egg cells were developed right from the earliest stages in ovarian tissue all the way to full maturity.

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK's head cancer information nurse, said: "Fertility preservation is an important issue for many patients whose treatment could leave them infertile". Here, they have, through meticulous experimentation, worked out how to complete the third and final stage. Evelyn Telfer, one of the researchers, said, "It's very exciting to obtain proof of principle that it's possible to reach this stage in human tissue".

He adds: "It will be a while until this is implemented in the clinic but, if and when it is, this will be seen as one of the seminal advances".