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Biotech Science

Stem Cells That May Make Eggs Found In Women 142

Posted by timothy
from the and-in-chickens dept.
sciencehabit writes "Men typically produce working sperm as long as they live, but most textbooks say female mammals are born with all the egg cells, or oocytes, they will ever have. Since 2004, however, reproductive biologist Jonathan Tilly of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston has challenged that conventional wisdom, arguing that in mice—and perhaps also in humans—there must be an ongoing source of new eggs. Today, Tilly and his colleagues report isolating rare cells in ovarian tissue from adult women that can grow in lab dishes and form immature oocytes. The potential egg stem cells could help scientists devise new ways to help rescue the fertility of women who have to undergo cancer treatments or who suffer from premature menopause."
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Stem Cells That May Make Eggs Found In Women

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  • Unpossible (Score:4, Funny)

    by Kohath (38547) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @07:58PM (#39167623)

    The science is settled. What's up with these finite-egg deniers?

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Hey, if you were Al Gore, you'd be correct.

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        Hey, if you were Al Gore, you'd be correct.

        Watch his amazing prior hoc ergo propter hoc demonstration.

        • by Dast (10275)

          Um....

          "prior hoc ergo propter hoc"?

          I think you meant "post hoc ergo propter hoc".

          • by Sulphur (1548251)

            Um....

            "prior hoc ergo propter hoc"?

            I think you meant "post hoc ergo propter hoc".

            I meant to say before this therefore because of this in Latin. I was refering to a graph behind AG showing temperature swings followed 800 years later by the Carbon Cycle.

              If one wanted a post-hoc assertion, then he would say that the Climate Cycle drives the Carbon Cycle.

    • Can't tell if humor?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...or even regular menopause.

    • Not without serious advances in other areas of longevity research. Pregnancy in forty-five-year-old women is a dangerous proposition.
      • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Monday February 27, 2012 @12:21AM (#39169073) Journal

        Pregnancy in forty-five-year-old women is a dangerous proposition.

        If it's dangerous for the mother, think of the child in the womb

        Babies born by older mothers have much higher chances of having being born with many types of defects

        Down syndrome is just one of them.

        • by TheLink (130905)

          It seems as if they do about as well as younger women that undergo induced pregnancies: http://www.livescience.com/18289-pregnant-women-age-50-complications.html [livescience.com]
          But since those younger women are going for induced pregnancies they might not be that healthy either...

          If those induced pregnancies weren't that much more dangerous than normal pregnancies, then it may not be so dangerous for older mothers and their babies if the eggs and sperm are good quality (whether donated or via some new-fangled stemcell thin

        • by quenda (644621)

          If it's dangerous for the mother, think of the child in the womb

          Babies born by older mothers have much higher chances of having being born with many types of defects. Down syndrome is just one of them.

          But you have completely missed the reason. It is because of the old eggs. If a 45yo woman is pregnant using a donor egg from a young woman, all those risks go away.

          • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Monday February 27, 2012 @12:21PM (#39173407) Journal

            If it's dangerous for the mother, think of the child in the womb

            Babies born by older mothers have much higher chances of having being born with many types of defects. Down syndrome is just one of them.

            But you have completely missed the reason. It is because of the old eggs. If a 45yo woman is pregnant using a donor egg from a young woman, all those risks go away.

            Actually, there's extensive evidence that it isn't because of old eggs: it's because as a woman gets closer to menopause her body spontaneously aborts less often, so she'll bear children with defects, that when she was in her twenties her body would've dumped. Tim Birkhead in "Promiscuity: the evolution of sperm competition" discusses this quite a bit. The theory is that when she's younger her body wants to focus its resources on only the best offspring, and as she approaches menopause, it's more important to just have kids to pass on her genes, than it is to be selective.

  • Not safe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @08:23PM (#39167783)

    Most women lose their fertility for a reason. Whether it's menopause or cancer, getting pregnant is not a good idea in either case.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Trains and vehicles are unsafe. Humans do not move faster than they can run for a reason. How dare we either go against god or risk finding out why evolution made us this way!

    • Have you actually looked into this?

      In africa infertility used to be the second most common reason women went to the doctor. AIDS was number one. They will not do to the doctor if they are just old.

      Obviously menopause is a common reason women can no longer have children but it is expected. Cancer is way, way down on the list.

      Unexplained infertility is a huge medical problem. If you go to the doctor, much of the time the honest answer is that "we just don't know"

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        In africa infertility used to be the second most common reason women went to the doctor. AIDS was number one. They will not do to the doctor if they are just old.

        The population growth of Africa is the highest of the continents. Africans have many problems but infertility isn't one of them.

        Unexplained infertility is a huge medical problem. If you go to the doctor, much of the time the honest answer is that "we just don't know"

        And in most of those cases it is possible to use the woman's own eggs. When it's not feasible then there is some problem with the woman's body, which can make pregnancy a risk.

      • Re:Not safe (Score:5, Insightful)

        by morari (1080535) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @09:03PM (#39167999) Journal

        Unexplained infertility is a huge medical problem.

        Is it?
        It seems like an out of control population is a much, much larger problem.

        • So if we stopped attempting to treat all those darn infertile people of the world would that put any kind of dent in the population growth rate? Along the same of thinking, we should also stop medically treating old and sick people so that they die earlier to help lower the population and save money/resources.

          Perhaps a better solution would be that all families be limited to 2 children and that we continue to treat people with fertility problems.

          • by morari (1080535)

            No, I doubt it would significantly correct population growth. Not when you have whack-job religious, middle-class families throughout America popping out 5-7 kids per couple. I would be willing to compromise and let infertility be treat if a "2 children per family" law was implemented and enforced, along with proper sexual education. Furthermore, there should be a very basic parenting license that you must apply for along with this hard limit. Repeat criminal offenders need not apply. People with adverse ge

            • by root_42 (103434)

              People with adverse genetic defects that would be passed onto their children would be turned away.

              Uh oh, treading on very shallow ground here. We already had this kind of stuff in a slightly different setting, some 70 years back. It was not so much turning people away from fertility treatment, but rather making sure they are infertile. The question always is: where do you draw the line? If there's a risk of injury / disability in your family or with your pregnancy, the doctor should inform the parents, so that they can make a decision, if they want to get pregnant or if they really want to carry out the

      • by Arterion (941661)

        Hold on, let me put on my tin foil hat.

        Okay.

        Obviously, it's a government plot to seed the clouds over Africa with chemicals to sterilize the population. It's one of the uses of chemtrails. We don't have the problems over here so much because drink water that's been treated, and most of us either drink bottled water or have a filter on the tap. The chemicals they use are not transdermal, so the little bit that's in our tap water doesn't affect most people from showering, laundry, brushing theeth, etc.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      What about in vitro fertilization using a surrogate? This would allow a woman who is infertile to still have a child carrying hers and her husband's DNA. Not the most important thing, I'll admit, but for the rare couple in such a situation, it would be nice to have.

    • Along those lines, a quote in TFA on why women had all the eggs they will have in the beginning and don't make eggs:

      "Then why would women have menopause?"

      I found that less than compelling reasoning from scientists.

      I was shocked to find that the biology I've been reading that says that a woman (and all female mammals) has all her eggs in the beginning is really just conjecture and that no one has ever seen the eggs stored. There's quite a lot of reasoning involved, about how important it is for integrity of

      • by u38cg (607297)
        It's actually quite shocking what we don't know about female biology. There is still not a scientific consensus on whether the G-spot exists. The clitoris only made it into textbooks in the mid 20th century. A sort of scientific analogue of the Bechdel test, I suppose.
    • Most women lose their fertility for a reason.

      No. Evolution does not operate by reason or intelligence.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        Whoosh.

        • Cause != Reason.

          The word reason implies some mental process or justification, an explanation or rationale for an event.

          The word cause is neutral, and is appropriate to describe factual relationships.

          • If I say my car won't start and someone says "for what reason?" they aren't implying that the darn heap of junk has become sentient and made a conscious decision to go on strike.

            • If I say my car won't start and someone says "for what reason?" they aren't implying that the darn heap of junk has become sentient and made a conscious decision to go on strike.

              Correct. They are implying that you (a human being) can supply a logical explanation that will satisfy their curiosity.

          • Yes, cause != reason.
            Take this example:
            The reason she is infertile, is ovarian cancer destroyed her ovaries.
            The cause is defective cellular reproduction leading to a cancerous tumour.

            A reason is the explanation of a situation or circumstance.
    • It's not actually well established what the reason for menopause is. Not all mammals undergo menopause. Socio-economic status is a far better predictor of the ultimate health of the child than the age of the mother. The reason why women lose their fertility is merely because they run out of eggs. They run out of eggs because from an evolutionary perspective, there's no downside to running out of eggs 20-30 years after the onset of menarche. Evolutionary adaptations don't have to be advantages per se; they m

      • Survival of the species doesn't count as a purpose? Hard to see how more genetically similar and increasingly defective babies born to decrepit mothers wouldn't be deleterious.
        • Correct. Survival of the species is not a purpose.
          Some species adapt and survive, and some don't. They don't try to adapt for the purpose of surviving. There is no guiding hand.
          Some genes make it into future generations and some don't.
          If a species is prolific and successful early on and then starts producing deformed offspring that die early its genes will still have made it.
          Defective offspring is not necessarily a deleterious occurrence.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        I don't think that "running out of eggs" is anything more than a bedtime story told to kids, or even flatly a lie. At 45 years old, one has lived around 16 thousand days. Even if someone ovulated once a day, running out of 16,000 cells is good as a joke. If you think otherwise, educate us, please. Show where someone counted those eggs, and has shown that they have ran out.

        • Ostensibly, the number of eggs that a female is born with is the number of eggs she carries through her life. It's perfectly believable that a) the number of eggs is a finite and small number; and b) no more eggs are created after birth. The wikipedia article on ovum claims that this fixed number is a property of all mammals.

          I haven't seen any scientific articles that have claimed otherwise, though I admit that I've taken this on faith. It IS fact that human ovulation has a beginning and an end that don't c

          • by tibit (1762298)

            30*365/(7*3) 522. Five hundred cells? Show some papers where they have counted them and can show that women actually ran out of anything. Oh, and it better be done by multiple groups, from various "angles", just to be sure we have reproducible results and not just due to one group's (mis)-interpretation. Because I think it'd be big news, possibly Nobel-prize-worthy. There's IMHO a whole lot of BS that's repeated over an over, but no one bothers to look at the original sources and think "hey, that's, like,

            • by tibit (1762298)

              Sorry, meant to write 30*365/(7*3) &lt 522. Heck, and this probably should be more like 7*4, but still, we're talking about roughly half a thousand eggs. That's a rather silly number, if you think about it.

              • What does silly mean in this context?
                You have some kind of feeling that it seems way off?
                Or does silly have some biological meaning that I'm not familiar with?

                • by tibit (1762298)

                  In terms of number of cells, that's barely a blip. Since it's such a small blip, you'd think someone somewhere would have counted the damn eggs already. Now, the way things are, the ovaries have volume measured in millilitres, not nanolitres, and I've yet to see an actual egg count. That's why the assumption that humans somehow run out of eggs is silly, and that's why the presumed small number of eggs is silly as well. Unless there's some hitherto unknown (at least to me) mechanism that kills a whole bunch

      • There is a benefit of menopause. Grandparents are free baby sitters. Before the niceties of modern civilisation, a mother was dependant on others to help her care for her children. Human infants are physically and mentally under developed and completely useless, the only reason they're born after 9 months is so their head doesn't get stuck on the way out.
    • Are you also opposed to therapies for lost eyesight, lost mobility, lost hearing, and so on? All of those happen for reasons.

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday February 26, 2012 @08:24PM (#39167791)

    This is Slashdot... do we care about the inner workings of a woman's body?

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @08:42PM (#39167877) Homepage

      Maybe you don't but this should freeze your balls:

      Tilly holds a patent on the human egg stem cells

      (and is starting a company to help alleviate human suffering and cash out on his find).

      Hopefully, no public funds were used in this endeavor, otherwise I smell an ethical rat...

      • by LongearedBat (1665481) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @11:32PM (#39168793)

        holds a patent on the human egg stem cells

        Public funds or not... in my opinion that is the rat I'm smelling.

      • This sounds like he has a patented method for screening for these cells. If it's a fancy microscope or artificial chemical that he developed, good for him. More likely it is a method of culturing cells using generic culture methods, and he is just going to try to prevent anyone else from doing anything with those cells. If that's the case, there are bigger ethical problems than funding.
  • How did the medical community miss this? Is this another 'we didn't bother checking with actual women' thing that seems to be plaguing them?
    What is with that? I thought one of the benefits of being an MD was access to lots of women....

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because no doubt some researchers decades ago did a study with a p-value 0.05. Because most researchers--like everybody else--are statistical idiots, they presumed either the null hypothesis wrong and/or the the alternative hypothesis true and moved on. When what should have happened instead was generation and testing of a new hypothesis, preferably one which sheds light on both previous hypotheses.

      Consider that with a p-value of 0.05 one out of twenty experiments, on average, will see "improbable" results

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      I thought one of the benefits of being an MD was access to lots of women....

      Yeah, lots of women with injuries or diseases, uncomfortable if not in actual pain.

      Still, whatever turns you on...

  • Stem Cells That May Make Eggs Found In Women

    So, as opposed to the egg cells found in men?

  • "Men typically produce working sperm as long as they live..."

    Well, yeah. Men typically op-test the sperm banks as often as possible.

    Maintenance is important ....
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "rescue the fertility of women who have to undergo cancer treatments or who suffer from premature menopause."

    They already have a solution for that. It's called adoption. Until we figure out how to sufficiently take care of the children there are on this planet we shouldn't be going out of our way to make new ones.

  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @11:24PM (#39168725) Homepage Journal

    While interesting from a scientific point of view, why are we obsessed with fertility when some people have more children than they can take care of? Perhaps we can address fertility issues caused by rare events like cancer, or the fertility of women as they get older as a solution to a shortage of orphans.

    • Also, when you have your own child, then hopefully you have (some) idea of what might be in store for you genetics/environment wise. You know the family history (if it's bad, then maybe adoption *IS* a better option).

      You also know that you aren't going to run into that possibly difficult moment where the child you've raised decides to look for the genetic parents. Knowing some people that have been adopted, the whole birth-parent-genetic-parent can be hard on a kid and on a family.

      One fear of mine would be

      • My grandfather was raised in an orphanage.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        One fear of mine would be not knowing the parent of your child, and the circumstances of birth. Was the parent an alcoholic or drug user? Did the child get enough nourishment, etc while in the womb? Many children are given up because of a bad home environment, which often might have adverse factors later affecting said child's health.

        Adopters (here in the UK at least) get to know a fair amount about the birth parents. As most children aren't adopted as babies here, any obvious health issues are normally apparent by the time they are adopted.

        And in any case, if an adopted child turns out to have some unfortunate medical condition, it's the same as if it's your biological child, you deal with it.

    • by olau (314197)

      This is of course a rhetorical question, but I'm going to answer it anyway. The answer is that you don't have be obsessed, but the women who get sick and can't have a child would like to have some kind of cure. Maybe that's selfish of them, but if what you are thinking of is the sustainability of the earth, I'm sure that if you did the math,, it's more selfish to eat meat.

      The truth is that many Western countries have a fertility rate below 2 [wikipedia.org]. So while there may be too many children born in some parts of the

  • Yeah, I don't think this is going to work...unless the Batman cape and cowl really does get your juices flowing.

    *sucks thumb*
    • Dunno about that but when I play Arkham City as Catwoman I have a semi the entire time

      I mean that could be downright dangerous for teenage boys. They should have a warning on that game about erections lasting longer than 4 hours...

  • Eggs found (Score:4, Informative)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday February 27, 2012 @04:34AM (#39170075) Homepage Journal

    So it's now acceptable to refer to them as chicks?

  • Occasionally there are news about how sperm can become redundant and some unpleasant banter about men becoming extinct comes along. Can we conclude from these news that the opposite could happen, ie: stem cells from a man being set up to generate his own egg?

    Slashdotters would then be able to reproduce asexually, which would be clear progress :)

  • Now the uber morality wizards will have to apply their opinions as to the moral issues raised by this threatening discovery.
  • I've read scifi stories of society not needing men. Women could clone and bear children themselves. With stem-cell eggs and potentially wombs in males, then the flip could be true.

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