A newly discovered type of stem cell in the ovary could mean big things for women’s health, possibly leading to new fertility treatments and maybe even a way to delay menopause.
Since the 1950s it has been thought that women are born with all of the egg cells they will ever have. But with the discovery of egg-producing stem cells in mice and humans, it now appears that the ovary can replenish its egg supply. Researchers led by Jonathan Tilly, a reproductive biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, report the finding online February 26 in Nature Medicine.
Other researchers hail the discovery as a genuine breakthrough with huge implications. “This is like discovering a new planet in our solar system that has a bacterium on it,” says Kutluk Oktay, a reproductive biologist at the New York Medical College in Valhalla. At the very least, he says, the cells offer hope for extending a woman’s reproductive life span.
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