New fertility option for cancer patients!

For the first time researchers have used a new technique to grow immature human egg cells into nearly mature egg in laboratory. It is an accomplishment that could prove beneficial in future to cancer patients who have lost their ability to reproduce. They grow a woman’s immature egg cells, contained in a tiny sac called a follicle, into a healthy & nearly mature egg in the laboratory.

This is the first step towards the development of a new technique, which, if successful in the next steps, may eventually provide a new fertility option for women whose cancer treatments destroy their ability to reproduce. The nearly mature follicles grown for 30 days in the lab had been plucked from ovarian tissue of cancer patients, before they began chemotherapy & radiation treatments that would destroy their fertility.

In the next step, the researchers will try to induce the egg’s final division, called meiosis, so it sheds half of its DNA in order to be fertilized. The ultimate goal is to freeze the immature follicles & then thaw & mature them in a culture to the point where they are ready to be fertilized. As the immature egg grew inside the follicle, it produced hormones just as it would inside a woman’s body.

If follicles could be removed from the tissue & grown in the laboratory successfully, then a new fertility preservation technique might become available for women who could not safely have an ovarian transplant. The new advance was achieved by suspending the human ovarian follicle in two different kinds of 3-dimensional gels.

Teresa Woodruff, chief of fertility preservation said, “By being able to take an immature ovarian follicle & grow it to produce a good quality egg, we’re closer to that holy grail, which is to get an egg directly from ovarian tissue that can be fertilized for a cancer patient. This represents the basic science breakthrough necessary to better accomplish our goals of fertility preservation in cancer patients in the future.”

The discovery would enable researchers to understand how nurse cells, the cells that support & surround the maturing egg, communicate with the egg. This information will help scientists understand how eggs grow & develop properly.


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