Eggs from embryos breakthrough
Dr Kirsty Horsey
Progress Educational Trust
02 May 2003
US scientists have managed to grow egg cells from early mouse embryo cells, an achievement that has implications for research into stem cell therapies and infertility. The researchers, based at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, found that embryo cells grown in the laboratory could be coaxed into making eggs and egg-nurturing cells similar to those found in the body. Their findings, described as 'very important, very impressive research' by UK developmental geneticist Wolf Reik, were published in the journal Science last week.
Stem cells found in early embryos are capable of turning into a wide range of different body tissues, a property that researchers arehoping to harness to develop therapies for human diseases. But untilnow, 'most scientists have thought it impossible to grow gametes fromstem cells outside the body', says lead researcher Hans Scholer. Histeam found that not only did mouse embryo stem cells produce eggcells, but they also began to divide, multiply and recruit othercells to form egg-nurturing structures called follicles. If the eggs are found to be normal, and can be produced efficiently, then they could be used for research into female infertility, embryo development, and perhaps for generating cloned body tissues. However, Scholer stresses that 'cloning to generate organisms, be they mouse or humans, is a dead end', saying that 'I see this approach as a source of interesting stem cells'.
Scholer now wants to find out if the laboratory-produced eggs can be fertilised with mouse sperm to make healthy embryos. He hopes that eventually the process can be repeated in primates and other species, to enable research into possible therapeutic applications. 'The process in mice is so simple I don't see a reason it wouldn't work with primate embryonic stem cells' he said.
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Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.
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