New paper stirs more debate about whether adult ovaries can make new eggs

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Any study that claims to overturn long-held dogmas is going to run headlong into controversy. Take, for example, a stream of recent papers which apparently showed that adult ovaries contain stem cells capable of producing eggs.

If that’s true, it’s a really big deal. For decades, the textbooks have said that women are born with their lifetime supply of eggs, which slowly dwindle away and are never replaced. If adult ovaries do indeed have stem cells that can regenerate new eggs, that has big implications for fertility treatments, and when a woman could potentially have children.

But wait! A new study, which used a different technique to isolate these ovarian stem cells in mice, found that they don’t divide, and never produce actual eggs. Maybe the textbooks are fine as they are?

But WAIT! This study, far more than many of the others I cover, has divided opinion. Obviously, the authors think that it deals a critical blow to the idea of egg-making adult stem cells. And obviously, one of the people behind the stem cell discovery thinks that the new experiments aren’t very good. I also contacted four other scientists who work on ovarian biology and their views differ considerably.

Image from RWJMS IVF Laboratory