'Manufacturing' Human Eggs

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Scientists Manufacture Human Eggs

By EMMA ROSS The Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) - Scientists appear to have found a way that someday could allow women to become mothers after they no longer can produce viable eggs, a potential advance in breaking the last great barrier to fertility treatments.

Theoretically, the method could create an unlimited supply of eggs for an infertile woman and allow her to have a child at a much older age. However, experts tried to play down that possibility, saying they strongly discourage post-menopausal motherhood on ethical and practical grounds.

The technique, described Monday at a conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Lausanne, involves taking a cell from an infertile woman's body, and inserting it into an emptied donated egg. The resulting egg contains the genetic material of the woman wanting the baby, not of the donor.

Scientists warned that the work is still in the preliminary stages, and it could be years before the technique produces a healthy baby, if ever. When they fertilized the manufactured egg with sperm, it divided once, then collapsed.

Dr. Gianpiero Palermo, a professor of embryology at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Cornell University, said that besides older women, his technique could help those who can't use their own eggs, either because they don't have any or because their eggs are no good.

Such women could include those whose ovaries are removed before cancer treatment, those who were born without ovaries or women who reach menopause at a young age.

Prominent fertility researcher Dr. Zsolt Peter Nagy, who was not connected with the project, said the technique potentially is one of the most important advances in fertility treatment ever.

Fertility treatments took a major step forward in 1978, when a team led by Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe conquered Fallopian tube problems with the introduction of in vitro fertilization, where the egg is fertilized outside the body and implanted in the womb.

Then, in 1992, while he was working in Belgium, Palermo circumvented the failure of sperm to swim to the womb by injecting the sperm directly into the egg - a technique called ICSI.

The problem of declining egg supply as women age has probably been the biggest major challenge in fertility treatment since then, experts say.

``I am sure one day this will work,'' said Nagy, scientific director at the Central Research Clinic of Human Reproduction in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Nagy is pursuing similar research.

``And if it does, it will be the biggest development, after IVF and ICSI,'' he said.

Edwards called the research ``promising.''

Others were more skeptical that manufactured eggs could produce healthy babies anytime soon, saying the technique would likely create gross genetic abnormalities. Scientists believe that DNA deteriorates with age and fear that the older the cell, the more likely the chance of major defects.

All people inherit two sets of chromosomes from their parents - one from their mother and one from their father. Normally, all the cells in the body, except the sperm and the egg, have two copies of each chromosome, which contain the genes.

A mature egg contains only one set of each chromosome. When a cell from elsewhere in the body is inserted into an emptied egg, it then has two sets.

To make the egg viable for fertilization, the scientists had to get rid of one of the sets of chromosomes. An electric shock split the pairs in half and prompted the egg to expel the unwanted set of chromosomes, making it suitable to receive the sperm.

Roger Gosden, a fertility pioneer from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said Palermo's technique was ``plausible.''

``If there's a way we can help people have a genetic child rather than a donated egg, then we should. This is interesting science, it's very preliminary, but who knows?'' he said.


I thought human cloning was the vilest application of science imaginable. I was wrong, this is.

Doesn't it seem vivdly hypocritical to discourage post-menopausal motherhood while conducting an interview about the procedure you've come up with for doing just that? I also find it repugnant that they were concerned about the 'ethics' of certian women becoming mothers, but there was no concern for the ethics involved with removing material out of one egg, inserting foreign material into it, and then shocking it to cause it to split into it's component pieces, so you can trash the parts you don't 'need'. No mention either of the ethics of actually creating a life by fertilizing this 'manufactured' egg, and then watching it divide and collapse.

-- StevenB (thicketyrowfarm@aol.com), July 02, 2001


My first reaction is that cloning still seems more repugnant, but maybe I am missing something...Either way, it's man playing around where he really shouldn't.

-- Doreen (bisquit@here.com), July 02, 2001.

I must be missing something too, Doreen. Why put all the time and energy to make more babies?

They are popping out at too great a rate already, for crying out loud!


-- jumpoff joe (jumpoff@ecoweb.net), July 03, 2001.

Who said the donor genetic material to 'create' the egg HAD to be from a woman? Egg 'shell', yes. Egg 'contents', no. In other words, This technology (if perfected) would allow for the true offspring of homosexual partners. Think about it, Male-Male babies (using a surrogate to carry the child to term) sharing the exclusive genetic code from each 'dad'.

('Al' has his chromosomes placed into a 'hollowed' out egg. This egg is then fertilized by 'Bob'. The fertilized egg is placed in-vitro into a surrogate. When the baby is born, It is the genetic offspring of 'Al' and 'Bob,' just as you are the genetic offspring of your mom and dad. The woman would only provide the egg 'shell' and for gestation-she would NOT provide any genetic material whatsoever.)

Sorry, I thought that this application would have been obvious to everybody. I should have at least mentioned it. It's still more repugnant to me than cloning (and I believe cloning is pretty awful).

-- StevenB (thicketyrowfarm@aol.com), July 03, 2001.

Ug... Ok... Maybe that's overstating things just a bit...

Cloning of anything is about as appealing as a purple apple with green worms in it. Just ain't natural... As for making eggs - wonder if these guys can prevent the genetic mutations that can occur because it is HOUSED in an over-mature body for nine months (or thereabouts, as they are playing with THAT too) body...

Just think, folks... This is what they are TALKING about. Just as with our military - what is it that they are NOT talking about? The supposed stealth technology was around for a couple decades before we were 'officially' told of the actual planes. How many kids are out there from these experiments already?

I have to reply to Steve, though.

"Science", back in the 70's did some experments. It was along the lines of fusing cells, as this genetic stuff, of course, wasn't around yet. The results were that two human eggs could be produced to develop a viable embryo, but two sperm couldn't. Sorry - thirty years ago, two lesbians could produce a baby, but two gays could not. It was only a matter of time.

-- Sue Diederich (willow666@rocketmail.com), July 05, 2001.

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