In a paper published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [the researchers] describe a simple way to signal immature mouse eggs to develop. They fertilized the mature eggs, got newborn mice, reared them and showed they were fertile. They also used their method to get human eggs to mature but did not fertilize them. Dr. Kazuhiro Kawamura in Japan, though, plans to take the next step with patients whose ovaries failed early in life – maturing their primordial follicles, then fertilizing the eggs, [Stanford's Aaron Hsueh, PhD] says.
Aside from potentially helping women with fertility problems, Kolata points out that the work could someday help scientists generate human embryonic stem cells. And the research also sheds light on what she calls the “mystery of egg cell development:”
The finding, [Louis DePaolo, PhD, chief of the reproductive sciences branch at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development] said, “rises to the level of important,” and not only because it may give women more options when their ovaries fail. In addition, he said, the work provides “basic knowledge of how these early-stage follicles get going.”
“We never understood that,” Dr. DePaolo said.