Japanese scientists said today they had grown mouse eggs entirely in the lab, then fertilised them to yield fertile offspring, a scientific first cautiously hailed by experts in human reproduction.
The technique -- which involved coaxing stem cells into becoming mature eggs -- was still much too risky and controversial to be reproduced in humans, commentators said.
"This is the first report of anyone being able to develop fully mature and fertilisable eggs in a laboratory setting right through from the earliest stages of oocyte (immature egg) development," commented Richard Anderson of the University of Edinburgh's MRC Centre for Reproductive Health.
While the technique may be useful to treat infertility "one day", the paper also showed "the complexity of the process and how it is a long way from being optimised," he said via the Science Media Centre in London.
Only a small number of embryos which grew from the eggs developed into normal mice.
The lab-grown eggs were more likely to have chromosomal abnormalities.
The authors of the paper -- published in the science journal Nature -- reported using two types of stem cell, which are neutral, juvenile cells that can become most any type of specialised cell of the body.
The first kind was harvested directly from mouse embryos, the team said, and the other created in the lab by reprogramming cells taken from mouse tail tips back into a juvenile state from which they can re-specialise.
The stem cells were grown into mature eggs, which were fertilised in the lab as well. The resulting embryos were then transferred into surrogate mice.
Of those that survived, both male and female pups were fertile and produced another generation of mice, the authors reported.
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