Monday, 29 April 2013

Adult females lack oocyte-forming stem cells

Many researchers have claimed in the past that some of the eggs (oocytes) formed by mammals may actually originate from stem cells. In turn, this gave hope for a new possible source of stem cells that could be used to treat infertility and perhaps other diseases. Unfortunately, a new study by two researchers reveals that mice and probably humans don't use stem cells to produce eggs.

Both female mice and humans are born with a large supply of germ cells of primordial follicles, each carrying one immature egg. Generally, most scientists believe that the supply of these follicles is fixed, however in the past ten years some have proposed that some mammals like mice and humans may have adult germ-line stem cells capable of generating new oocytes.

Picture of a Human primordial follicle
A human primordial follicle

In this study the two researchers, Lei Lei Allan C. Spradling, used a technique known as "lineage tracing" to determine whether stem cells are needed in female adult mice to form new eggs. This technique allows researchers to track individual cells and their progeny within a living specimen by marking them with a new gene.

The researchers say that they detected no germ-line stem cell activity even when they caused the death of half the existing follicles.

"Thus, adult female mice neither require nor contain active germ-line stem cells or produce new oocytes in vivo." extract from the study.

Lei, L., & Spradling, A. (2013). Female mice lack adult germ-line stem cells but sustain oogenesis using stable primordial follicles Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1306189110

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