Women could soon double, or even triple, their chances of having a baby, thanks to a new scientific breakthrough.
Researchers have discovered that the ‘nobbles’ on eggs can be used to create embryos, giving hope to women who are struggling to conceive.
The ‘nobbles’, which are found on most eggs, are made up of genetic material which is left over when a cell divides. They normally disappear over time but researchers have found a way to combine them with a donor egg, from which the nucleus has been removed, to create an egg that can then be fertilised by a sperm to produce an embryo.
The breakthrough means that women with only a small number of eggs could potentially create double, or triple, the usual amount of embryos during IVF. The researchers, from the Oregon Health and Science University and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, suggested that the breakthrough could be particularly significant for older women who have fewer eggs due to their age.
"This is potentially a way to double the number of eggs we're able to get from one session of in vitro fertilization,” Dr Shoukhrat Mitalipov, senior author and director of the OHSU Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy, told The Telegraph.
However, the new technique is likely to be controversial as it means that babies would be born with DNA from three parents: the mother, the father and the ‘second mother’, who contributes the donor egg.
The breakthrough comes just two months after it was reported that the world’s first baby had been born using the ‘three-parent technique’, with researchers in Mexico using mitochondrial transfer to prevent a genetic disease being passed from the parents to their baby. The procedure has been legalised in the UK although scientists are still developing the process.
Despite the controversial nature of the technique, it is a step towards the preventing genetic mutations and diseases being passed from parents to their offspring in future.
And the discovery that egg ‘nobbles’ can be used during IVF will help to further this prevention.
“This new technique maximizes the chances of families having a child through in vitro fertilization free of genetic mutations," Dr Mitalipov added to The Telegraph.