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Human eggs can develop from ovarian surface cells in vitro

Research has shown for the first time that human eggs may develop directly from cultured ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) cells derived from adult human ovaries. Oocytes derived from the culture of OSE cells developed in vitro into mature eggs suitable for fertilization and development into an embryo. These findings, published today in the Open Access journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, offer important new strategies for use in in vitro fertilization and stem cell research, and cast doubt on the established dogma on the fetal origin of eggs in adult human ovaries.

It is now well established that fetal mammalian eggs originate from somatic stem cells. More recent research of adult human ovaries has shown that oocytes and granulosa cells (the layer of small cells that form the wall of the ovarian follicle) may originate from OSE cells and assemble together to form new primary follicles the structures that grow and rupture during ovulation to release mature eggs. However, definitive proof that new oocytes may develop in adult human females will be if they can be found to differentiate in vitro from OSE cells derived from adult human ovaries.

For the first time, Antonin Bukovsky and colleagues from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the University of Tennessee, United States, have shown that human eggs and granulosa cells) can develop from cultured OSE cells. By scraping cells from the surface of adult ovaries and growing them for 5 to 6 days in the presence of an estrogen-containing medium (phenol red) to stimulate their growth, the team was able to produce new human oocytes in vitro.

The oocytes cultured in this way are viable and went on to successfully complete the first meiotic division to become mature human eggs capable of being fertilized and developing into an embryo. These in vitro findings support earlier in vivo studies by Bukovsky and colleagues that OSE cells are bipotent; capable of different
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Contact: Juliette Savin
juliette.savin@biomedcentral.com
44-207-631-9931
BioMed Central
4-May-2005


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