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Scientist predicts solution to infertility

Dr Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

25 July 2003

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[BioNews, London] Most infertility problems could be eradicated in ten years, according to Alan Trounson, from the Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development, in Victoria, Australia. Trounson, one of the early pioneers of IVF, said that the key to many infertility related problems may be found by undertaking research on stem cells and combining stem cell technologies with existing fertility treatments. Stem cells - particularly embryonic stem cells - have the potential to become any type of cell from the human body. Trounson's unit has recently been awarded a large grant by the Australian government for research on stem cells.

In London to mark the 25th birthday of Louise Brown, the first person born from in vitro fertilisation (IVF), Trounson told the UK press that using research derived from IVF technology, scientists will one day be able to solve most of the problem of infertility, by growing new eggs and sperm from stem cells for people who cannot produce the cells themselves. 'In the long term, fertility treatments will be able to help everyone', he said, adding that embryonic stem cells in particular have 'huge potential' to be used in fertility treatment. He continued: 'I think there will be a major paradigm shift to cell therapies and this would not have happened if it was not for IVF. In the future, we'll be able to take cells and reconstruct the equivalent of sperm and eggs', pointing out that similar research in animals has been encouraging.

In May 2003, for example, US scientists reported in Science that they had managed to grow egg cells from early mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. The researchers, based at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, US, 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. They found that not only did mouse ES cells produce egg cells, but they also began to divide, multiply and recruit other cells to form egg-nurturing structures called follicles. Team leader Hans Scholer said he now wants to find out if the laboratory-produced eggs can be fertilised with mouse sperm to make healthy embryos and hopes that eventually the process can be repeated in primates and other species. Another team of scientists, from Japan, found that they could use ES cells to produce immature sperm cells. Their research was published in New Scientist in May 2003.

Roger Pederson, a stem cell researcher at the University of Cambridge, UK, said the enormous potential of ES cells, for treatments for both infertility and disease, is 'all a legacy of 25 years of IVF', adding that 'every single embryo which can be studied is a result of IVF'.



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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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Date Added: 25 July 2003   Date Updated: 12 September 2004
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