IVF therapies are currently used to aid women with fertility issues. In what seems like a major breakthrough, scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital have demonstrated that egg-cell generation continues throughout the reproductive life-span of women.
The scientists separated egg-producing stem cells from the ovaries of women who reached their reproductive age. They found that these cells were apparently capable of producing normal egg cells and oocytes. The team used green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled human oocyte-producing stem cells (OSCs) to reach this conclusion.
Jonathan Tilly, PhD, director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology in the MGH Vincent Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who led the analysis, commented, “The primary objective of the current study was to prove that oocyte-producing stem cells (OSCs) do in fact exist in the ovaries of women during reproductive life, which we feel this study demonstrates very clearly.”
The investigators also found that the oocytes retrieved from adult human ovaries possessed characteristics similar to mouse models producing fully functional eggs. This finding may lead to improved technologies for treatment of infertility among women and even postpone the occurrence of ovarian failure.
Essentially, the researchers stumbled upon a technique to provide adult human ovarian tissue with OSCs. The latter derived from human ovarian tissues could be capable of producing new oocytes which are surrounded by host cells to form new follicles.
The research is published in the March issue of the journal, Nature Medicine.