Being the kind of person I am, I can’t describe the joy of setting off on a journey with absolutely everything I need. Nothing forgotten, nothing to grab along the way. Oh the peace of mind.
Ladies, we know that you come into this world equally well prepared. That is, for your journey towards motherhood. Or do you? We’ve all been aware that you’re born with all the eggs you’ll ever have, but is that true? Researchers in the lab of Dr. Jonathan Tilly at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston challenge that notion by reporting their discovery of human egg-producing stem cells in Nature Medicine this past February.
These researchers have previously shown that mice have stem cells capable of egg production later in life. The very idea of these cells, termed oogonial stem cells (OSCs), challenges the long-accepted dogma of ovarian development and is understandably a hot-button issue in the field.
To challenge the doubters, Tilly’s team switched from mice to humans. They were able to obtain reproductive-age human ovaries taken from females undergoing sex-reassignment surgery. They were able to label OSCs via a marker exclusively found on ovarian stem cells and sorted all the cells of the ovaries to gather up the OSCs.
When they cultured these cells, they generated apparently normal-looking immature eggs, showing that they are at least somewhat productive. Proof positive would be to see if you can make a baby from eggs derived from these OSCs, but would of course involve making a human embryo in the lab, which is a bit of a touchy subject.
There are some avenues to take without crossing that line, which the lab intends to pursue in order to see if the OSCs are capable of making usable eggs. If they are, we may be at the forefront of some incredible medical advances. Cancer patients that were sterilized by chemo may be able to stimulate production of new eggs. Further research could even figure out how to stimulate these cells in normal patients to give ladies a few more years of ovarian function. Might slow the tick-tock of that biological clock for some ladies, or make it easier for others to have children in the first place.
Thanks & Gig ‘Em.