Normally it takes an adult female mouse to produce a fully functioning mouse egg. Now researchers have removed immature egg cells from fetal mice and completely matured them in vitro, with a success rate of over 90%.
The techniques, described in the 01 Aug ’02 issue of Nature (Vol. 418, No. 6897, pp. 497-498), will give researchers a window on egg development, and may help us understand infertility and birth defects. If the methods can be used in humans - which is still some way off - they could save the fertility of women undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy, by removing an ovary before treatment. And being able to rescue and develop the huge numbers of immature egg cells that normally go to waste may eventually help efforts to breed endangered species.
Izuho Hatada of Gunma University, Japan, and colleagues guided the immature cells through complex chemical and genetic stages while keeping them in culture for 28 days. They then fertilized the eggs in vitro, and transferred them to surrogate mothers, who produced healthy, fertile offspring.
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