Scientists grow eggs from five-year-old girls

Scientists have grown eggs from tissue taken from five-year-old girls meaning future childhood cancer sufferers could go on to have children of their own.

There is known that children and young people who go through cancer are left infertile by the treatment in most of the cases. They are faced with having to use donated eggs and sperm or adopting to have their own family.

The problem is very difficult for children who develop cancer before they reach puberty. The eggs or sperm cannot be freeze at this time.

But we have good news! Scientists have managed to grow eggs in the lab using samples of ovarian tissue taken from girls as young as five.

Immature eggs can be removed from the tissue and grown to maturity in special culture.

The next step will be to see if they can be fertilised to create viable embryos. These could then be frozen and stored for future use or the unfertilised eggs could be frozen using the latest techniques which have proven more effective.

Around 1,500 children under 15 are diagnosed with cancer each year.750 are under the age of five.

The most common form of cancer in children is leukaemia, which affects 35 per cent, followed by brain or spinal tumours.

Research published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility revealed that a team at Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Centre in Jerusalem examined the ability to remove and preserve ovarian tissue from young female cancer patients and then retrieve, mature and freeze eggs from that tissue. 

They worked with 19 patients between the ages of five and 20. On average they were able to retrieve an average of nine eggs per patient and 34 per cent of them were successfully matured. 

"As our ability to treat childhood cancers improves, it becomes more important that those survivors are able to live rich, full lives, including the ability have children," said David Adamson, MD, President of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

"This research helps move us to the goal of allowing paediatric cancer survivors to become parents." 

Fertility doctors have attempted several methods to help young people going through cancer to conceive their own children.