Infertility is a true medical problem that haunts many couples. I’ve made my mark over the years, with sound nutrition. One of my allergy patients actually got pregnant after she stopped her allergy foods.
But most of the advances (maybe not the right word) have come from powerful hormonal interventions, such as the drug Clomiphen. It is heavy-handed and notorious for getting multiple pregnancies. This to me is a bad thing: a woman who Nature has declared a poor reproducer should not be given the sudden burden of 4,5 or 6 simultaneous offspring.
Nutrition and lifestyle changes remain top of my list of necessary and worthwhile approaches to rectifying infertility.
But here’s something new on the way!
It puts an end to the old “belief” (it was no more than a belief) that a woman can’t get more eggs than she is born with.
A Chinese team have been experimenting by implanting stem cells in the ovaries of sterilized mice. They were gratified to find that not only were fresh eggs created but healthy offspring was the result.
This has re-opened the whole debate.
What the Chinese team at Shangai Jiao Tong University used were probably female germline stem cells (FGSC). The stem cells were labeled with fluorescent protein and then injected into sterile mice. Presto! Fluorescent eggs appeared!
Not only that but some pups (baby mice) had the fluorescent cells in them. A neat experiment.
Of course the question raised is can this be done in women? We don’t yet know. But a team at the University Medical Centre in Ljubljana in Slovenia think so. They have isolated cells that looks right. If they are FGSCs, the door will be open to implant these into infertile women.
I would say that’s better than heavy hormone therapy.
Meantime, there are always detractors. One complaint has been whether the Chinese model really had FGSCs. Well, they got baby mice! What more proof do you need?
There is a mystery though. If stem cells work in this way, why don’t women have an endless top up of eggs? I think maybe they do. But other regulatory mechanisms are what dictates the end of reproductive usefulness; not egg supply.
Good story. I got it from New Scientist, 18 April 2009.