The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 56: 901 - 907 (2012)

Vol 56, Issue 10-11-12

Special Issue: Female Germ Cells in Development & Tumors

Strategies to support human oocyte development in vitro

Published: 6 February 2013

Evelyn E. Telfer* and Marie McLaughlin

Institute of Cell Biology and Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh, Scotland


Many young cancer patients are now being given the option to store ovarian cortical biopsies before undergoing potentially damaging chemo or radio-therapy. This tissue mainly contains large numbers of immature primordial follicles. Currently the only option to restore fertility using this tissue is by transplantation which may not be a viable option for all patients. Greater options to realise the potential of this tissue to restore fertility could be achieved by the development of in vitro systems that support oocyte development. The ability to develop human oocytes from the most immature stages of follicles (primordial) through to maturation and fertilisation in vitro would revolutionise fertility preservation practice. This has been achieved in mouse where in vitro grown (IVG) oocytes from primordial follicles have resulted in the production of live offspring. However, developing IVG systems to support complete development of human oocytes has been more difficult because of differences in scale of timing and size. Our lab has been working on a multi-step culture system to support growth and development of bo-vine and human oocytes from primordial through to fully grown, using fresh and cryopreserved ovarian cortical tissue. This review outlines the approaches being taken to obtain complete in vitro development of human oocytes and strategies for assessing the health and viability of IVG oocytes.


Ovary, fertility preservation, follicle culture, cancer

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