Eggs grown in lab a new hope for infertility
Scientists have grown artificial eggs for the first time and used to create living animals in a breakthrough hailed as "remarkable" by experts.
Scientists in Japan proved it is possible to take tissue cells from the tail of a mouse, reprogramme them as stem cells and then turn them into eggs in the lab.
The eggs grown in a petri dish were then fertilised and the resulting embryos were implanted in female mice which went on to give birth to 11 healthy pups.
If the procedure is found to work in humans, it could help more women become mothers. Women are born with all their eggs, so can struggle to conceive as they grow older because their eggs also age.
But if eggs could be made from stem cells they would be brand new, and may even produce healthier babies.
The technique could also help women who are born with fewer eggs than normal, or whose ovaries have stopped releasing eggs. Scientists say it could even help to bring back extinct animals.
Professor Katsuhiko Hayashi, of the department of developmental stem cell biology at Kyushu University, said: "This is the first time a functional egg has been produced from stem cells in culture which gives us some clue to human egg production from stem cells.
"We need to now carefully look at the quality of mouse artificial eggs. This kind of quality check will contribute to an application to humans in future."
British experts hailed the research as "very important", a "remarkable achievement" and the "first convincing evidence" that eggs could be made entirely artificially.
Richard Anderson, professor of clinical reproductive science at the University of Edinburgh, said: "This is the first report of anyone being able to develop fully mature and fertilisable eggs in a laboratory setting right through from the earliest stages of egg development.
"Although we are a long way from making artificial eggs for women at the moment, this study also provides us with a basis for experimental models to explore how eggs develop from other species, including in women.
"One day this approach might be useful for women who have lost their fertility at an early age, as well as for improvements in more conventional infertility treatments." (© Daily Telegraph, London)