The conventional line of thinking says that women can produce only a finite number of egg cells over their lifetimes. Some researchers dispute this, but a new study suggests that it might not matter. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital claim they have isolated stem cells from human ovaries and used them to generate egg cells in the lab, a breakthrough that could someday lead to new infertility treatments.
Those treatments are a long way off, but the finding is nonetheless pretty huge. It means that not only could stem cells be isolated from women with fertility problems to produce eggs in the lab, but that biologists could gain whole new insights into the way fertility works--how eggs are impacted by things like nutrition and pharmaceuticals.The new study comes on the heels of a number of recent animal fertility studies that suggest that adult mice produce the same kind of stem cells that can produce healthy eggs and healthy offspring. Using equipment that can identify a specific protein found on the surfaces of reproductive cells (both male and female), scientists isolated them in the lab. They then showed that the mice cells wold generate viable eggs, capable of producing healthy embryos.