KNOXVILLE, May 11, 2005 ( – A team of scientists at the University of Tennessee has created artificial human ova using stem cells taken from the surface of the ovaries of five women aged 39 to 52. The cells were treated with a growth-stimulating oestrogen medium called phenol red and developed into human ova.

One of the many problems faced by IVF researchers and commercial facilities is the shortage of useable ova. Ova are difficult to obtain and store frozen. Women undergoing IVF treatments have to take drugs which hyperstimulate the ovaries to produce more ova. All of this is expensive and makes IVF treatments more dangerous.

Professor Antonin Bukovsky, wrote: “Development of numerous mature oocytes (ova) from adult ovarian stem cells in vitro (in the laboratory) offers new strategies for the egg preservation, IVF utilisation, and treatment of female infertility.”

By creating artificial ova, however, researchers are entering into risky territory. Ova obtained by natural production are often found to be genetically deficient, there is no way to tell whether the genetic problems of artificially created ova would be worse.

While Tennessee researchers suggest that artificial ova will solve some of the availability problems for IVF, pro-life groups are warning against abuse. Many in the research community have been clamouring for free access to embryos for use in stem cell research. British pro-lifers are warning that this could open to door to embryo farming. Pro-life campaigner Matthew O’Gorman, President of Sussex University Pro-Life Society, said, “The artificial harvesting of eggs is synonymous with the intention to manufacture human beings for research. This is unethical, unnecessary and unacceptable.”

Because so many women are being told that they can have a full career and wait until later in life to have children, IVF researchers are under greater pressure to devise methods to allow older and older women to bear children. Many specialists in fertility research are urging women not to be swayed by the news stories of older celebrities having children through IVF treatments and not to delay childbearing.