February 26, 2012
Egg-producing Stem Cells Removed From Younger Women

It may be possible for young women to have oocyte precursor cells removed from ovaries while young for use to create eggs to start pregnancies when they reach their 30s and 40s.

For the first time, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers have isolated egg-producing stem cells from the ovaries of reproductive age women and shown these cells can produce what appear to be normal egg cells or oocytes. In the March issue of Nature Medicine, the team from the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology at MGH reports the latest follow-up study to their now-landmark 2004 Nature paper that first suggested female mammals continue producing egg cells into adulthood.

"The primary objective of the current study was to prove that oocyte-producing stem cells do in fact exist in the ovaries of women during reproductive life, which we feel this study demonstrates very clearly," says Jonathan Tilly, PhD, director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology in the MGH Vincent Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who led the study. "The discovery of oocyte precursor cells in adult human ovaries, coupled with the fact that these cells share the same characteristic features of their mouse counterparts that produce fully functional eggs, opens the door for development of unprecedented technologies to overcome infertility in women and perhaps even delay the timing of ovarian failure."

Imagine a 20 year old woman getting oocyte precursor cells extracted from her ovaries for use when she's in her late 30s or 40s to create viable eggs once her ovary eggs are all too old to start a pregnancy.

What I wonder: Does it make sense for young people to have tissue samples taken from various parts of their bodies and frozen for later use? Decades later when degenerative diseases become a problem the frozen cells might be useful for creating therapies. Access to genetically compatible yet young cells (long telomeres, little accumulated DNA damage) might provide a useful starting point to grow stem cells and other cells for therapeutic purposes.

Tissue extraction for later therapeutic use might make more sense today for the middle aged. 50 years from now biotech that can start with aged cells and create youthful cells might be quite mature. But 20 years from now cells taken from a 70 year old to create a cell therapy for that person might perform poorly.

What I'm curious to know: For, say, 75 year olds just what percentage of the cells in their bodies have substantial DNA damage? If one needed to start with cells from a 75 year old body in order to create stem cell lines for cell therapies how many cells would one need to sort through to find cells that would make good starting points for growth of therapeutic cell lines?

In theory doctors could remove, say, 100 cells, each from different parts of your body, separate them into different locations, and grow up a different cell line from each of the 100 starting cells. Well, if DNA were then removed from part of each cell line and tested (or even sequenced) what percentage of the cells would show major genetic abnormalities? How hard is it to find good starting cells in old bodies to create rejuvenating therapies?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 February 26 02:49 PM  Biotech Reproduction

Brett Bellmore said at February 26, 2012 4:45 PM:

In theory it might make sense, in practice,

1. It's an elective procedure, hence not covered by insurance, taking place at a time when you likely don't have much in the way of disposable income.

2. 20 years from now you may find you wasted your money, as your friends have some cells sequenced, error corrected, a suite of upgrades incorporated, and then have kids without having spent all that money a couple decades earlier.

In short, we're talking about procedures those of us today would certainly benefit from having had done when *we* were young, but that doesn't imply that those who are now young would benefit from doing them now.

amir said at February 26, 2012 8:18 PM:

"Imagine a 20 year old woman getting oocyte precursor cells extracted from her ovaries for use when she's in her late 30s or 40s to create viable eggs once her ovary eggs are all too old to start a pregnancy."
Though I didn't read the article I think you have the wrong idea. In her 20's a woman already today can have mature eggs aspirated and frozen and used in her 40's 50' and even 60' 70's and 80's theoretically, as long as she has a functioning uterus. But it's more difficult for women in their late 30's and 40's to find quality mature eggs. But if these older women still have oocyte precurser cells, you can overcome this problem.

Lou Pagnucco said at February 27, 2012 11:16 AM:


You didn't cite one of your previous very relevant postings -
"Ovary Transplants Rejuvenate Old Mice"

Ovary transplants have significantly increased longevity in multiple species.

I don't believe the "DNA damage" theory of aging has stood up too well.
It may be that epigenetic drift in tissues is more important.

PacRim Jim said at February 28, 2012 2:02 AM:

This rejuvenation of organs would have to be in a certain order, or even simultaneously.
If, for example, the heart were rejuvenated before the arteries, it might rupture them.

bmack500 said at February 28, 2012 5:38 PM:

Randall, but did you mean "Long telomeres"?

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