by Cassandra R. Elias
Men might be able to make children throughout their lifetime, but there might be new evidence that there is a new method for making eggs for women, which could change when women decide to become mothers.
Over the decades, scientists believed that women didn't have the same opportunities as men did with their sperm when it came to when they could "use" their eggs.
Jonathan Tilly, a researcher at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston says, "The traditional belief in the field has been that when a baby girl is born, she is given a bank account of eggs and that bank cannot be added to, only withdrawn from."
Mr. Tilly rocked the scientific community in 2004 when he believed he found "primitive stem cells" in the ovaries of adult female mice. These primitive cells could generate new eggs. To Tilly, this raised the chance that the same could hold true for women. "The implications at the time were enormous," Mr. Tilly said.
His work has been challenged by others in the scientific community, which is not unusual. Mice are of course, not humans.
Mr. Tilly and his colleagues are going to publish their series of experiments in the upcoming March issue of the journal of Nature Medicine. He sais his research has proven young adult women have the same cells as the mice.
"What this means is that little bank account of eggs that a little girl gets at birth is in fact open to continued deposits," Tilly explained.
The research went as follows:
1) They procured ovarian tissue from young women.
2) Tilly and his colleagues solated cells that appeared identical to the ones they had found in mice.
3) The research showed that the cells could develop into eggs in a dish in the laboratory.
4) Tilly and his crew injected the cells back into human ovarian tissue to see if they would turn into eggs (they made them glow green to make sure they saw the right ones).
5) According to the research, the cells indeed turned into eggs and "even formed follicles."
"Right before our eyes, in culture dishes, we were watching that process happen for the first time," Tilly mentioned. "It is those follicle structures that are key to maturing that egg cell to the point where it becomes able to accept sperm and produce an embryo," he said.
It doesn't take a scientist to realize how huge this research could be. With infertility increasing in our societies, this could help reverse the trend and change the landscape of when couples choose to become parents. It could also create hope for those couples who have become infertile due to chemotherapy, early menopause or simply being over the age of 35.
Scientists in the community still remain skeptical. Like any findings, they believe that more research should be done to actually confirm Tilly's claims. David Albertini of the University of Kansas says, "I don't see this as really being applicable in the near future in the treatment of infertility. That would be pie in the sky."
Continuing with the assertion that this process could make women have children later and later in life could have long-lasting negative effects. Barbara Katz Rothman, a sociologist at the City University of New York states, "What are we creating as a world? We're creating as a world one in which it's increasingly hard for people to have children when you we are young, and we're then saying we have solutions, we have technology that says you can do it when you are older."
What's next for Tilly? He's continuing his research and working with colleagues in the United Kingdom to try and fertilize eggs made from the new cells. This way they can prove they can create an embryo that could be used for implantation in the womb.
What do you think of these findings? Would you wait to have children if this turns out to work?
Watch the video to find out more!
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