Leading article: Glimpses of the future for female fertility

Share
Related Topics

The significance of the scientific breakthrough that we report today can hardly be overestimated. Scientists at Edinburgh University, working with a team from the Harvard Medical School in the United States, are about to produce the first human egg cells to be grown entirely in the laboratory from stem cells. The next step is to try to fertilise these eggs to establish whether they produce normal, healthy embryos. The scientists are on the point of requesting a licence to conduct this research, and it could go ahead before the end of the year.

If healthy embryos do result, the implications will be enormous. Those scientists now speculating about the prospect of creating an "elixir of life" may be running ahead of themselves. But if it can be shown that laboratory-grown eggs behave exactly like natural eggs, this raises the possibility that the female menopause could become a thing of the past. There could be attendant health benefits for women, and the prospect of a woman's fertility lasting as long as a man's.

The desirability of elderly motherhood, of course, if it became possible, might be a moot point. But the feasibility of reversing the menopause in women who experience it prematurely, or restoring the fertility of young women who have been treated with chemotherapy, has to be a highly positive development. That the same breakthrough holds the promise of an almost endless supply of eggs could not only revolutionise the treatment of female infertility, but also end the present shortage of eggs that has held back research.

While the credit for this pioneering work obviously belongs with the scientists and their academic institutions, compliments should also be paid to the far-sightedness of Parliament in passing the 1990 Human Fertility and Embryology Act and its 2008 successor. The fact that the UK has a comprehensive legal framework for such research, and had one in place earlier than most other countries, has enabled it to become a world leader in the field. It is a stellar example of how government can help to foster scientific advance.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage  

A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next

Simon Usborne
Ed Balls has ruled out a return to politics - for now  

For Labour to now turn round and rubbish what it stood for damages politics even more

Ian Birrell
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?