CLOSINGS: View Closings

Human eggs grown in lab offer 'promising' insight into fertility

Scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom have revealed, in a first-of-its-kind study, that they were ...

Posted: Feb 10, 2018 11:55 AM
Updated: Feb 10, 2018 11:55 AM

Scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom have revealed, in a first-of-its-kind study, that they were able to grow human eggs in a lab. Their achievement could someday lead to new fertility treatments.

The eggs were developed from an early stage in ovarian tissue to a mature stage in which they could have been ready for fertilization, according to the study, published last week in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction.

Scientists reveal that they can grow a small number of human eggs in a lab

Lab-grown eggs could benefit fertility preservation practices in the future

However, the eggs appeared to have many abnormalities, said David Albertini, a co-author of the study and director of the Division of Laboratories at the Center for Human Reproduction in New York.

More research needs to be done before the technique behind these lab-grown eggs could be used to help women facing certain fertility concerns, such as young cancer patients whose fertility has been compromised by treatments, he said.

"It was pretty amazing that we got any eggs out of this at the end of the day, and what that tells us as scientists is that we're beginning to understand exactly what are the limitations," Albertini said.

"When we really examine these eggs, we could tell that there were a lot of things wrong with them, but by knowing what's wrong with them, then that allows us to go back and refine the technology.

"Hopefully, as this work continues, we will see some of these abnormalities disappear in terms of the quality of the eggs that we get," he said.

In general, infertility can be defined as not being able to get pregnant after a year or more of having unprotected sex, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For a pregnancy, a woman's body must release an egg from her ovaries, and a man's sperm must fertilize the egg. The fertilized egg must go through a fallopian tube toward the woman's uterus and attach to the inside of the uterus.

About 12% of all women ages 15 to 44 in the US have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the CDC. In the UK, about one in seven couples may have difficulty conceiving, according to the National Health Service.

In developing countries, it's estimated that one in every four couples could be affected by infertility, according to the World Health Organization.

The WHO has called infertility a "global public health issue" and has calculated that more than 10% of women around the world are affected.

For the new study, tissue samples were collected from the ovaries of 10 women who were undergoing elective cesarean sections.

"All tissue came from women within a similar age range and at the end of pregnancy," the researchers wrote in the study.

Then, 48 early-stage eggs were isolated from the follicles of the ovarian tissue fragments. They were cultured in a lab, and nine reached the final stages of development, according to the study.

"This is a technological breakthrough for those of us who are interested in understanding how the ovary works and how it impacts a woman's fertility," Albertini said. "This is a research triumph that opens new doors for us to understand how a human egg develops."

"I think we're a good five to 10 years away from seeing this applied clinically," he added. "We have a lot of work to do to -- number one, improve the efficiency of this procedure, that is the in-vitro development of human eggs -- but we also have a lot of work to do in terms of improving the quality of the eggs that come out."

Until the new study, human eggs have been grown only from a relatively late stage of development, and mostly mouse eggs have been grown from early stages.

Last year, a separate research team cultivated two types of mouse stem cells in a Petri dish and watched an early-stage embryo grow, closely resembling a natural mouse embryo in its architecture, development process and ability to assemble. That artificial embryo, however, was unable to continue developing into a fetus.

The new study offers novel findings for humans, Albertini said.

The research appears to be "incredibly creative" and "forward-thinking" and suggests a potential way for women facing fertility concerns to use their immature eggs during certain fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization or IVF, said Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a San Francisco-based reproductive endocrinologist who was not involved in the new study.

"Right now, when a woman goes through IVF, immature eggs are discarded. The reason is that there is no scientific evidence published that has been replicated to show that germinal vesicles (or immature eggs) can be frozen and then thawed and then cultured to maturity. We can't even culture germinal vesicles now that are fresh. If we could, this would be a huge game-changer," Eyvazzadeh said.

"Ovarian tissue biopsy could replace what we now know as IVF," she said. "I really hope that this proof-of-concept study is replicated and that these scientists are wildly successful.

"Women no longer would have to take fertility drugs if this technology turned out to be a reliable, consistent and an effective way to mature eggs."

Dr. Ali Abbara, a senior clinical lecturer in endocrinology at Imperial College London and a member of the Society for Endocrinology, called the new research "exciting" and "promising" in a statement Friday.

"It suggests that we may be able to grow eggs from ovarian tissue, all the way from early stages to later development stages, ready for fertilization by sperm; and that this process could be achieved outside of the human body," said Abbara, who was not involved in the new study.

"However, the technology remains at an early stage, and much more work is needed to make sure that the technique is safe and optimised before we ascertain whether these eggs remain normal during the process, and can be fertilized to form embryos that could lead to healthy babies," he said. "Still, this early data suggests that this may well be feasible in the future."

Terre Haute
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 69°
Robinson
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 68°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 69°
Rockville
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 62°
Casey
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 67°
Brazil
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 69°
Marshall
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 69°
Partly cloudy and calm
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 198248

Reported Deaths: 7866
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1124844933
Lake12852447
DuPage12427522
Kane9878305
Will9413346
St. Clair4107161
Winnebago3797131
McHenry3250114
Madison270276
Kankakee180269
Rock Island176436
Champaign169319
Peoria166736
Kendall139823
Unassigned1347209
Sangamon129733
DeKalb94730
LaSalle80124
Boone76923
Jackson73120
McLean67015
Macon65023
Tazewell6108
Adams5576
Coles49221
Randolph4747
Williamson4346
Ogle4165
Clinton41517
Whiteside36617
Grundy3345
Stephenson3346
Union32723
Monroe32313
Knox3131
Jefferson29219
Morgan2696
Iroquois26711
Henry2531
Vermilion2342
Cass23311
Bureau2313
Franklin1941
Warren1910
Perry1842
Macoupin1823
Lee1781
Montgomery1717
Marion1650
Effingham1631
Woodford1583
Logan1571
McDonough14515
Christian1434
Saline1342
Jo Daviess1301
Livingston1223
Douglas1222
Jersey1172
Pulaski941
Clark872
Shelby861
Mercer764
Moultrie750
White710
Johnson710
Fayette693
Washington670
Wayne662
Piatt630
Hancock631
Bond623
Carroll614
Jasper607
Greene590
Cumberland573
Menard570
Mason560
Lawrence510
Gallatin512
Ford502
Massac410
Wabash400
Alexander370
Fulton350
De Witt340
Crawford300
Edgar290
Hamilton290
Marshall280
Clay260
Pike240
Scott210
Edwards200
Richland200
Hardin180
Schuyler180
Brown150
Putnam140
Henderson130
Pope110
Calhoun90
Stark70
Out of IL10

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 75862

Reported Deaths: 3069
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16088730
Lake7688278
Elkhart492685
Allen4002163
St. Joseph357883
Hamilton2829104
Vanderburgh202213
Hendricks1927108
Cass18029
Johnson1789119
Porter135539
Clark128749
Tippecanoe123811
Madison100665
LaPorte93130
Howard91365
Kosciusko86812
Bartholomew81747
Floyd80948
Marshall79323
Monroe76631
Delaware74552
Dubois70812
Vigo69911
Noble68829
Boone68746
Hancock68339
Jackson5965
Warrick58830
Shelby56527
LaGrange56310
Grant52930
Dearborn51228
Morgan49334
Clinton4444
Henry40620
Wayne38510
White37611
Montgomery35921
Lawrence35227
Harrison34823
Decatur34132
Putnam3128
Daviess27720
Miami2772
Scott27210
Jasper2552
Greene25434
Franklin24615
DeKalb2384
Gibson2314
Jennings22712
Steuben2133
Ripley2138
Carroll1962
Fayette1947
Perry18713
Posey1790
Starke1787
Wells1742
Orange17424
Fulton1722
Wabash1703
Jefferson1672
Knox1610
Whitley1556
Tipton14312
Washington1421
Sullivan1381
Spencer1373
Clay1245
Huntington1243
Randolph1244
Newton12010
Adams1092
Owen991
Jay920
Rush854
Pulaski811
Fountain742
Brown741
Blackford652
Ohio656
Benton640
Pike590
Vermillion580
Switzerland530
Parke511
Martin480
Crawford450
Union410
Warren241
Unassigned0206