First human eggs grown in lab in fertility 'breakthrough'
Scientists at Edinburgh University claim it could help women undergoing chemotherapy.
Scientists at Edinburgh University have grown human eggs in a laboratory for the first time in what could be a groundbreaking development for fertility treatment.
Egg cells were removed from ovary tissue at their earliest stage of development and grown to a point ready for fertilisation, according to a study published in Molecular Human Reproduction.
The development could help women undergoing harmful treatment, such as chemotherapy, allowing immature eggs to be recovered from patients, matured in a lab and stored for future fertilisation.
Scientists have previously matured human eggs from the late stage of development.
But this is the first time a human egg has been developed in the laboratory from its earliest stage.
Researchers will now evaluate the health of the eggs and whether they are viable for fertilisation.
Evelyn Telfer, Professor of Reproductive Biology at Edinburgh University, told STV News: "What we have achieved is the ability to take the most immature stage of human egg from ovarian tissue and get it to grow outside of the body, to the point where it is mature and it is almost at the stage where you can potentially fertilise it.
"What it means for us is that we now have the opportunity to stage the whole process of human egg development which we have never really had."
Professor Telfer said the breakthrough could a "significant advance" for young women who have to undergo cancer treatment as, if successful, it will mean eggs can be grown and then fertilised to create their own embryos.
Professor Daniel Brison, of the department of reproduction at the University of Manchester, said: "This is an exciting breakthrough which shows for the first time that complete development of human eggs in the laboratory is possible, more than 20 years after this was achieved in mice.
"As the authors acknowledge, there is much more important research still to do, but this could pave the way for fertility preservation in women and girls with a wider variety of cancers than is possible using existing methods."
But Professor Simon Fishel, founder and president of leading IVF treatment providers CARE Fertility, said further research was needed to establish whether eggs developed using the method could be healthy.
He said: "This study demonstrates that there is much laboratory research to be undertaken before we can be encouraged to believe that we will achieve healthy normal eggs for clinical purposes in vitro developed follicles derived from human ovarian cortical tissue."