A new study suggests that the stem cells located in human ovaries might be able to produce new eggs. The findings were published in the journal Nature Medicine and could potentially mean an end to IVF procedures.
The researchers derived a rigorous way to isolate these cells for the first time, and suggest that they might exist in humans. Jonathan Tilly, director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that if researchers could isolate the cells from ovaries, it might be possible to conduct the whole process outside the body, meaning an end to hormone injections for women opting for IVF.
Tilly and his colleagues isolated egg-producing stem cell from human ovary tissue, targeting a protein found on the surface of only these cells. The cells grew in dishes and had the properties of human eggs. Then, they showed that the stem cells could produce eggs. The researchers don’t know if these eggs could be fertilized to produce children. The USA doesn’t allow human eggs to be fertilized for the purpose of research.
The scientists also don’t know whether these egg-producing stem cells are active throughout a woman’s life or just when they receive a particular signal. The cells themselves are rare, making up 0.014% of the ovary in mice.
Reference: “Egg-making stem cells found in adult ovaries” by Kendall Powell, 27 February 2012, Nature.