February 25, 2024

Frozen ovaries could end egg shortage

Whether for IVF, therapeutic cloning or medical research, the biggest hurdle in reproductive technology at the moment is a shortage of women’s eggs. However, two of the biggest IVF clinics in the UK are working on a solution without resorting to animal eggs or complicated manipulations of scarce cells. The Bridge Clinic and Care Fertility are developing techniques of maturing immature eggs taken from slivers of ovarian tissue. These are removed using keyhole surgery and then frozen. A tiny slice of the tissue contains thousands of immature eggs.

Although most IVF clinics downplay the risks of fertility treatment, the two British clinics are now highlighting them to illustrate the potential benefits of their new technique. No longer will women require daily injection of potentially dangerous hormones and uncomfortable and invasive operations. Dr Alan Thornhill, of the Bridge Clinic, told the London Telegraph: "It would mean we have got a pool of thousands of eggs at very little risk to the woman and relatively low cost because you avoid the huge drug costs. Instead of having up to 10 eggs to work with, with this you can have lots of eggs without the risk of over-stimulation."

Although there are some promising precedents for the clinics’ ambitions, the new technique is still five years away from implementation. If successful, it could allow women to defer motherhood for years, or women about to undergo cancer treatment to retain their fertility.

But it could also lead to mass production of genetically selected embryos, as highlighted by economist James Miller on the US website   

US elections could affect British stem cell science

British stem cell scientists could lose their lead if a supporter of embryonic stem cell research wins the US presidential election, says the new head of the Medical Research Council, the UK’s largest public science funding agency. Generous funding and liberal regulation have attracted a number of talented people to the UK who were impatient with restrictions imposed by the Bush administration, says Dr Leszek Borysiewicz. "This is an area that Britain could very quickly be overtaken in, particularly if the sort of big bucks that California is throwing into the system were suddenly thrown in across the whole of the United States," he observed.