Friday, March 9, 2012

Green eggs have got biologists juiced.

Sam I Am and David Albertini of the University of Kansas Medical Center have something in common... a passion for green eggs.

Lo and behold:

Credit: Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology 

This is a human oocyte showing off some green fluorescent protein from a lab dish in Boston. It may not look like much at first, but this little green blob has biologists gushing. Or juicing. Depending on how you look at it.

"As an egg biologist, I'm juiced about this," said Albertini.

Jonathan Tilly of Massachusetts General Hospital and his colleagues recently reported finding a rare cell that is responsible for producing that circular emerald picture above. The cell was isolated from adult women and can grow in lab dishes to form oocytes. The potential egg stem cell may just prove to be the key to unlock fertility for women who have undergone cancer treatments or are dealing with premature menopause.

Tilly owns a patent to the human egg stem cells and is exploring new ways to use the cells to help improv fertility treatments. Currently they are screening for compounds that encourage the cells' development. Eventually they plan on testing whether compounds in the cells might be able to boost the fertility of aging eggs.

As excited as Albertini is, he warns that the current experiments that are being run are not researching what these cells could do in normal ovaries. But it's a start.

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