Saturday, September 22, 2007

Growing eggs from ovarian tissue

Doctors at the Bridge Fertility Centre in London have unveiled a technique for developing human eggs in the laboratory from samples of ovarian tissue. The technique involves taking slivers of ovarian tissue which contain thousands of immature eggs through keyhole surgery. The ovarian tissue is then frozen until the woman is ready to try for a baby. At that time it is stimulated with hormones to mature the eggs in preparation for IVF treatment.

The process of in-vitro maturation (IVM) has been in use for some time already. Previously, however, the process involved harvesting of around 10 immature eggs for maturation in the laboratory. This new method unveiled by the British researchers takes a much larger number of immature eggs in ovarian tissue samples that are then "banked". Both procedures have the advantage of eliminating much of the cost and risk associated with traditional IVF which comes from the large doses of expensive follicle stimulating hormone.

Doctors say they are probably five years away from being able to offer this new procedure to patients. The entire process still needs to be perfected.