Eggs Are Grown In Lab For The First Time In The UK
by Tabitha Gerry
In humans, eggs develop during puberty and exist in an immature state prior to this. At the lab at University of Edinburgh, they have found a way to grow eggs to a mature state outside of the ovaries. Like growth of any cell type, there needs to be careful regulation of the conditions the eggs are exposed to, these include maintaining specific temperatures and pHs to ensuring that there is enough of certain types of proteins available to the cell.
Whilst these eggs have been grown it is currently unsure how effective this would be as a way of producing new life as only around 10% of eggs reach the mature stage and none have been fertilised yet. Although it is legal in the UK to grow embryos for lab research, it is difficult to apply for ethical approval and currently the team is considering whether or not to apply for a licence allowing them to continue in their experiment or to work with a different research group who already have approval.
This research could be improved upon to optimise conditions for egg maturity, so that more than 10% of eggs reach maturity. But the technology that has been developed in mice has gone on to produce live young, so it seems likely that with some improvements this could become a viable option for fertility preservation. This is most likely to benefit young women prior to puberty who will potentially become sterile following cancer treatments. The current way in which this is being prevented is through removing and freezing ovarian tissue and implanting it back in after the cancer has been successfully treated.
The biggest issue with this however, is it runs the risk of reintroducing cancer cells back in to the survivors body and could cause more harm than good.