New hope in fertility treatment: Human egg grown in lab for first time
Human eggs have been fully grown in a laboratory for the first time in what scientists hope could be a breakthrough in improving fertility treatment.
Scientists removed egg cells from ovary tissue at their earliest stage of development and grew them to the point at which they were ready for fertilisation, according to the study published in 'Molecular Human Reproduction'.
The process could offer hope to women undergoing potentially harmful treatments such as chemotherapy - allowing immature eggs to be recovered from patients, matured in a lab and stored for future fertilisation.
Scientists have previously developed mouse eggs to produce live offspring and matured human eggs from a late stage of development.
But this study is the first time a human egg has been developed in the laboratory from its earliest stage to full maturity, researchers say.
Scientists will now focus on examining how healthy the eggs are and whether they can be fertilised.
Lead researcher Professor Evelyn Telfer, of the University of Edinburgh's school of biological sciences, said: "Being able to fully develop human eggs in the lab could widen the scope of available fertility treatments.
"We are now working on optimising the conditions that support egg development in this way and studying how healthy they are.
"We also hope to find out, subject to regulatory approval, whether they can be fertilised."
Professor Daniel Brison, of the department of reproduction at the University of Manchester, said: "This could pave the way for fertility preservation in women and girls with a wider variety of cancers than is possible using existing methods."
The study was carried out by the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh, the Centre for Human Reproduction in New York and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.