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Stem Cell Finding Could Expand Women's Lifetime Supply of Eggs
Date:2/27/2012

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers report that they've isolated stem cells from adult human ovaries that can mature into eggs that may be capable of fertilization.

The lab findings, which upend longstanding scientific theory, could potentially lead to new reproductive technologies and possibly extend the years of a woman's fertility.

It was long believed that women were born with a lifetime supply of eggs, which was depleted by menopause. But a growing body of research -- including a new paper from Massachusetts General Hospital -- suggests egg production may continue into adulthood. The study is published in the March issue of Nature Medicine.

"Fifty years of thinking, in every aspect of experiments, of interpreting the results, and of the clinical management of ovarian function and fertility in women was dictated by one simple belief that turns out to be incorrect," said lead study author Jonathan Tilly, director of the hospital's Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology. "That belief was the egg cell pool endowed at birth is a fixed entity that cannot be renewed."

Dr. Avner Hershlag, chief of the Center for Human Reproduction at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y., said the study is "exciting" but emphasized the work is still very preliminary.

"This is experimental," Hershlag said. "This is a beginning of perhaps something that could bring in new opportunities, but it's going to be a long time in my estimation until clinically we'll be able to actually have human eggs created from stem cells that make babies."

The same team at Mass General caused a stir in 2004 when it published a paper in Nature reporting that female mice retain the ability to make new egg cells well into adulthood.

In both mice and humans, the vast majority of egg cells die through a process called programmed cell death, or apoptos
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