A recent study reported in the Journal Nature Medicine led by Massachusetts General’s Jonathan Tilly describes the use of stem cells taken from human ovaries to make new eggs. The stem cells from the ovaries were injected into human ovarian tissue that was then placed under the skin of mice, which provided the blood supply that enabled growth of the tissue. Within two weeks, early stage human eggs had formed.
This study, though promising for new fertility treatment in the future, is a long way from practical medical use. First it must be validated in other studies, and proven safe to use to replenish an older human ovary with a “new supply” of eggs. Practical use of stem cell therapy in the field of infertility and other areas of medicine are still a long ways off. For now the important message is that since women do run out of eggs over time, as women get older it gets much more difficult to get pregnant, so time is critical with female fertility.
Women have millions of eggs when they are developing in their mother’s uterus. By the time a woman is born, she is left with a million eggs; by puberty approximately 300,000, and this number is rapidly depleted over time. The biggest challenge we face in the field of infertility is helping infertility patients to get pregnant who have very few eggs left. We see many patients with very few eggs left in their early 40s, a large number in their late 30s, and even some in their early 30s and late 20s.
At RSC we have aggressive ovarian stimulation protocols available that will help mature multiple eggs in an IVF cycle, but in some women running out of eggs these treatments still do not work. Using a donor egg is a highly successful option for infertility patients who are running out of eggs, and RSC has had outstanding success with this treatment.
Soon to be announced in our center is the formation of a national Donor Egg Bank, in which we have collaborated with some of the best infertility centers in the country. This Donor Egg bank will have frozen donor eggs available for women looking for an egg donor. Until very recently, eggs did not freeze well, so if a woman wanted to use an egg donor she needed to get fresh donor eggs which introduced more difficulties with timing and availability. At RSC we will very soon be offering a successful way to use eggs frozen from egg donors through a national Egg Bank.
Though stem cells may hold promise for replenishing a woman’s egg supply in the future, if it does prove to be successful it is still many years away from practical use. When it comes to a woman’s fertility, remember time is of the essence. At RSC, we will try to assist you to make good decisions for your fertility treatment to reach your goal to have a baby.