Previously, the feat was achieved in mice eggs to produce live offspring. But the process proved tricky in humans.
However, in the new study published in Molecular Human Reproduction, the egg cells were removed from ovary tissue at their earliest stage of development, to the point at which they are ready to be fertilised.
For the procedure, the scientists first placed very small, immature human eggs within ovarian tissue in culture in the lab, where they are left to develop.
When the eggs grow and become more than double their initial size, they are separated from the ovarian follicles, before further growth and monitoring.
Eggs and their surrounding cells are then removed from liquid culture to undergo further development in a nutrient-rich membrane.
Immature eggs recovered from patients' ovarian tissue could be matured in the lab and stored for later fertilisation, the researchers said.
Conventionally, cancer patients can have a piece of ovary removed before treatment, but reimplanting this tissue can risk reintroducing cancer.
"We are now working on optimising the conditions that support egg development in this way and studying how healthy they are. We also hope to find out, subject to regulatory approval, whether they can be fertilised," Telfer said.
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