While the race to beat the biological clock may be motivating women to get pregnant at an earlier age or resort to artificial means in order to preserve their egg cells, scientists might just have had a scientific breakthrough on how to replenish a woman’s supply of eggs even with age or disease.
It has been believed that a woman is born with the egg cells she will have throughout her life, a supply that will gradually get depleted until the onset of menopause.
When researchers from the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at Massachussetts General Hospital isolated stem cells from ovarian tissue samples, they discovered that these could produce what seem to be human eggs. The healthy ovaries came from consenting patients about to go through sex reassignment surgery. The results of the said study were published in the journal Nature Medicine.
In 2004, the study author, Jonathan Tilly, found out that stem cells in mice could produce new eggs, in the same way that men’s testes could keep producing sperm all his life.
Stem cells, unlike ordinary cells, can develop into any kind of cell in the body. It has the potential to help repair or create new cells and tissues for therapeutic purposes or for certain conditions.
How did Tilly and his colleagues differentiate stem cells from regular cells? By looking at the surface of the stem cells, which are different in structure. These were then injected into the human ovaries, then transferred to the tissue under the skin of mice, so that these could be nourished with a blood supply.
In recent mouse studies, when human oocyte stem cells from menopausal mice were transferred to younger ovaries, the stem cells were able to produce new eggs.