Scientists in Japan have used human blood to successfully create immature human egg cells in a lab for the first time, according to new research published Thursday inScience. The work is a major breakthrough in stem cell research and may lead the way to babies that can be created in a lab using the body tissues or blood of their relatives.
Mitinori Saitou, a biologist at Kyoto University who contributed to this pioneering research, managed to produce mouse eggs and sperm from stem cells back in 2012and used them to breed healthy baby mice. It was the first time that eggs were created from embryonic stem cells.
This image shows the growth of egg cells in an artificial, lab-grown ovary from 7 days to 77 days. Image: Science
When Saitou and his colleagues first produced artificial mouse egg cells, these were grown to maturity inside a simulated mouse ovary constructed from the tissue of fetal mice. Since this tissue would be next to impossible to obtain from humans, the researchers had to figure out a different way of creating an artificial ovary.
To produce immature human eggs, Saitou and his colleagues used human blood cells to create induced pluripotent stem cells, which are notable for their ability to become any type of cell. These cells were then injected into tiny, artificial ovaries that were grown in the lab using embryonic cells derived from mice.
Scientists have created mature human eggs in the lab for the first time.
Biology researchers have managed to grow human-egg cells obtained from ovary tissue to full maturity in a lab, promising a new treatment for fertility preservation. The technology would be of interest for women fighting cancer.
A government bioethics panel on Friday approved gene modifications of fertilized human eggs for basic research purposes, while rejecting the technology’s clinical use due partly to the unknown impact on the next generation. Studies on so-called genome editing are under way to use it for animals, plants and human body cells, but whether the technology should be applicable to fertilized human eggs is being debated worldwide after Chinese scientists reported gene editing of human embryos last year, in what was believed to be the world’s first such case.