If successful, a potential attempt to fertilize lab-grown human egg cells this year could help infertile women have babies, help women stay fertile with age like men and prevent or reverse menopause, reported The Independent.
Some scientists have even touted the possibility of creating an “elixir of youth” for women that would replenish the ovaries of older women and rid menopause, thus reducing the likelihood they will suffer from its symptoms and age-related health problems associated with it, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
Harvard Medical School and Edinburgh University researchers are preparing to request a license from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the United Kingdom’s fertility watchdog, to fertilize the lab-grown eggs with human sperm. The scientists hope to conduct a series of tests that will prove the process can generate an unlimited supply of human eggs.
The feat would make them the first in the world to produce mature human eggs from stem cells that are isolated from human ovarian tissue. Before now, “scientists have only been able to isolate a relatively small number of mature human egg cells directly from the ovaries of women who have been stimulated with hormones,” The Independent reported. The limitation has resulted in a shortage of human eggs for in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, which involves fertilization outside of the body, and for scientific research.
Scientists will study the resulting embryos for up to 14 days, the legal limit, to determine if they are normal. The Independent reported that these “experimental” embryos will not be transplanted into a woman’s womb. They will instead be frozen or allowed to perish.
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