For the last twenty years, it was understood that women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Unlike men, whose stem cells contribute to new sperm formation every 72 days, women use up all their eggs at some pre-determined point and enter menopause.
But a few years ago, Dr. John Tilly discovered “egg precursor cells”. In other words, his team suggested they could now isolate egg stem cells in adult women.
It brings up the tantalizing possibility that stem cells are not lost so much as dormant—and that if we could just encourage them to grow again, we could once more see good quality eggs. Is this really possible? I don’t know—but I hope so. Scientists have had success with other species and other stem cell types (here’s one example). I hope and believe that we will be seeing breakthroughs in our field too.
Now a process has been commercialized. We hope that by the end of 2014, we’ll start to see reports of successful pregnancies from manipulations that uncover and isolate these cells—and that the possibility of using stem cells to aid fertility will shift from “what if?” into cutting-edge science.
I’ll keep you posted if I become aware of trials you should know about or could participate in.