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KNOXVILLE — For the first time, human eggs have been produced from ovarian stem cells in laboratory research conducted by Antonin Bukovsky, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine.

The findings could lead to significant breakthroughs for women’s reproductive health. For example, it may be possible to extend a woman’s fertility for a decade and delay natural menopause by up to 12 years.

“Development of numerous mature oocytes (eggs) from adult ovarian stem cells offers new strategies for egg preservation, in vitro fertilization and treatment of female infertility,” Bukovsky wrote in the research report.

The research points to the possibility that fertilized laboratory-grown eggs also could provide embryonic stem cells for treating disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Bukovsky is editor-in-chief of “Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology,” a journal where the peer-reviewed study was recently published.

Ten years ago, he and his colleagues published a study that showed ovarian epithelium cells growing into eggs in human ovaries. Last year their research found that women produce eggs throughout life, reversing the long-held conclusion that women were born with a set number of eggs.