Contrary to more than a half a century of scientific belief that women will never have more eggs than the number they are born with, new research says that stem cells in the ovaries may be actually capable of creating new eggs later on in life.
This development could be the key to achieving pregnancy older women, who no longer have enough eggs to reproduce.
According to the study, published today in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital used stem cells discovered in the ovaries of Japanese women to effectively create healthy human egg cells.
“This is a beginning of perhaps something that could bring in new opportunities,” told Dr. Avner Hershlag, chief of the Center for Human Reproduction in Manhasset, N.Y. to Health Day.
Up until now it has been believed that women are born with a set number of eggs, which slowly decreases with age. By the time may women reach 35 years of age the supply is diminished enough to create difficulties becoming pregnant. Therefore, getting pregnant at 45 with a woman’s own eggs, or in some desired cases at age 50 or more, presents a significant challenge.
Although this research is promising, experts say that it is still a long way off before we know if these eggs grown from stem cells will actually be healthy enough to create human babies. Furthermore, the cells used in this study were collected from women in their 20′s, not from older women who are usually the age group seeking infertility treatment.
“Detection of stem cells in ovaries of young women does not necessarily mean that such stem cells can also be found in ovaries of older women,” Dr. Norbert Gleicher of the CHR in New York point out. However, he added, “in a more optimistic interpretation of this study’s results, one can, however, also conclude that presence of these stem cells opens tremendous new opportunities for research and potential clinical applications in women with aging ovaries.”