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Researchers Promote Egg Growth in Infertile Women

Update Date: Sep 30, 2013 03:33 PM EDT

The ability to reproduce and introduce new life to the world is a gift given to women. Even though the majority of women can give birth, there are some who are infertile due to health issues. For these women, starting a new family could involve adoption papers, egg donors and surrogate mothers. In a new study from Stanford University, researchers attempted to find ways of promoting egg growth in infertile women. From their experiment, one of the participants was able to give birth to a healthy baby successfully.

For this study, the researchers from St. Marianna University School of Medicine in Kawasaki, Japan, recruited 27 Japanese women. The team was able to collect five women's eggs that were still viable. The women had primary ovarian insufficiency, which is a condition in which the ovaries start to fail before the woman turns 40. When the ovaries fail to work, they no longer produce the normal levels of estrogen or they do not release eggs on a regular basis. The five mature eggs were placed in vitro fertilization.

The researchers used a method called in vitro activation in which they replanted the egg back into the women's fallopian tubes. The female participants were then treated with hormones, which help trigger the growth of follicles, which are specialized structures in the ovaries. The follicles help with the growth of the fertilized egg. This method has, so far, proven to be successful. One of the women in the study has given birth while another one is currently pregnant.

"Women with primary ovarian insufficiency enter menopause quite early in life, before they turn 40," said Aaron Hsueh, PhD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford and senior author of the study. "Previous research has suggested that these women still have very tiny, primordial primary and secondary follicles, and that even though they are no longer having menstrual cycles they may still be treatable. Our results obtained with our clinical collaborators in Japan make us hopeful that this is a group of patients who can be helped."

The researchers hope that their experiment could be extended to help women who suffer from other causes of infertility. They want to specifically help women between the ages of 40 and 45 who had early menopause triggered by cancer chemotherapy or radiation.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

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