What's being deemed a "breakthrough" for women's fertility has been achieved out of the University of Edinburgh. Researchers say that for the very first time, they've developed human eggs in the lab from their earliest points of growth to full maturity, offering insight into how science can potentially help women down the road suffering from infertility or whose fertility is jeopardized by such procedures as cancer treatments, the Guardian reports. In the study published in the Molecular Human Reproduction journal, the scientists retrieved ovarian tissue from 10 female subjects in their late 20s and early 30s and nurtured them in the lab with nutrient-heavy "cocktails." There were four steps involved, and of the 48 eggs that made it to the third step, nine achieved full maturity—the point at which eggs can be fertilized.
Although the development is being heralded as "valuable," scientists both involved with the study and those looking in from the outside warn the process is still in its infancy and needs years of further research to ensure the eggs are healthy and viable. The efficiency of the process, for example, wasn't stellar—nine mature eggs total wasn't a huge success rate—and the large polar cells found in those nine eggs may be worrisome, as that increased size could suggest abnormal eggs, a human reproduction expert tells Forbes. Still, one of the study's co-authors sees their work as an important first step on this fertility front. "It's very exciting to obtain proof of principle that it's possible to reach this stage in human tissue," Evelyn Telfer tells the BBC. "This is a big breakthrough in improving understanding of human egg development."