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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world