Our biological clock–that inner yearning some women feel to have babies while we’re still “young” enough to enjoy them–has caused many of us to agonize over whether to go full-force into our careers or settle down and start a family. But new research may make that choice easier for many women.
Although scientist once thought women were born with a finite supply of eggs and a finite amount of time to have children, new research suggests that it may be possible for women to extend the length of their reproductive window.
Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital recently discovered stem cells in ovaries that may be able to produce an “unlimited supply” of eggs.
“Not only does this re-write the rule book, it opens up a number of exciting possibilities for preserving the fertility of women undergoing treatment for cancer, or just maybe for women who are suffering infertility by extracting these cells and making her new eggs in the lab,” Dr Allan Pacey, a fertility expert at the University of Sheffield, said.
Dr Jonathan Tilly and his team isolated stem cells in ovarian tissue that contained DDX4, a protein. They then harvested those stem cells and put them in a dish to see if they’d grow other cells. They did. The harvested cells produced oocytes–or “immature eggs”–and when surrounded by ovarian tissue, they matured.
Despite this startling finding, taking testing further and actually implanting the eggs in a woman brings up a host of ethical issues, but the scientific community is excited about these “unprecedented” results.