Germline stem cells from infant mice can restore fertility in sterilised adult mice
Finding ways to restore fertility could help many individuals which have become sterile as a result of cancer treatments, in addition to those suffering from an earlier menopause. It also has the potential to treat the menopause itself and replenish hormone production In pursuit of this, various scientists have been studying the potential of germline stem cells, which are able to produce egg cells as mammals develop. Researchers have succeeded in producing eggs cells in the laboratory, but thus far it's unclear whether this process might happen naturally in the body following transplantation.
“The argument is whether these cells will do it in the body normally, or is this a feature of the cells being cultured"
To determine whether these stem cells might be able to differentiate into eggs cells within the body, a team at Shanghai Jiao Tong University have successfully transferred germline stem cells from the ovaries of 6-day-old mice into sterilised adult mice. To the researchers' delight, these cells migrated to a new position in the adult ovaries and became eggs cells. Furthermore, around 5 to 8 weeks after transplantation when these mice were mated 6 of the 8 treated mice became pregnant and delivered healthy offspring.
This study is an excellent proof of concept, but it does pose some remaining questions. As the stem cells were sourced from young mice, this approach is not readily applicable to humans. If we are able to find these cells in adults, or perhaps reprogram other cells to become germline stem cells, this may prove a viable strategy in the future. We'll need to conduct more research on the topic, and translate to humans before we have a good indication of success.
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