The creation by Chinese scientists of viable eggs from stem cells in mice may eventually lead to women being able to conceive after the menopause.
The research by a team at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, reported in Nature Cell Biology, involved extracting germline stem cells (FGSCs) from the ovaries of adult mice.
After being grown in a laboratory for more than six months they were transplanted into infertile mice, where they developed into mature oocytes that could be fertilised.
Says the report: `Our findings have implications for clinical and animal biotechnological applications related to the generation of new oocytes. They are also crucial to the future use of stem cells in regenerative medicine and anti-ageing medicine.`
This latest breakthrough builds on earlier findings in the US that it may be possible to grow mature egg cells from the ovaries of adult women.
Until recently, it was thought that women are limited to a finite lifetime store of around two million eggs, which means that by the menopause, too few remain to permit fertility.