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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are working in some of the lowest-paid sectors such as cleaning, catering and caring  

Women's wages have gone backwards. Labour would give women the pay they deserve

Gloria de Piero
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?