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Cell Cycle. 2007 Apr 15;6(8):879-83. Epub 2007 Apr 23.

Recent arguments against germ cell renewal in the adult human ovary: is an absence of marker gene expression really acceptable evidence of an absence of oogenesis?

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  • 1Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology, Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology Service, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


In 2004, a study from our lab published in the journal Nature reignited a worldwide debate over the validity of the dogma that mammalian females are incapable of oocyte and follicle production during postnatal life. Amidst widespread skepticism, we forged ahead and published a second study in 2005 in the journal Cell, which not only reaffirmed with different experimental approaches that this dogma is invalid but also identified cells in bone marrow (BM) and blood of adult female mice that could generate oocytes contained within immature follicles in the ovaries of recipient females following transplantation. Although this work has been the subject of extensive critical commentary as well, two recent reports from others have confirmed the germline potential of adult BM-derived cells in mice. Further, independent corroboration of the results and conclusions presented in our earlier Nature paper is also now available. However, three papers have been published that purportedly question our work and conclusions. The first is a paper by Eggan et al. published in the journal Nature, which attempts to draw conclusions about the germline potential of BM-derived cells after focusing solely on ovulated eggs while ignoring what may be occurring at the level of oogenesis in the ovaries. The second, from Veitia and colleagues, attempts to draw the same conclusions as Eggan et al. from a single clinical case report of a female Fanconi anemia patient who conceived a genetically-related daughter after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. The third is a report from Liu et al. just released in the journal Developmental Biology that claims to provide evidence refuting the possibility that adult female mammals produce new oocytes. However, all of the data presented in this latter report are derived from gene expression studies that the authors say fail to show the occurrence of meiosis or germ cell mitosis in adult human ovaries. Given that more than three years have passed since our initial study challenging the dogma was published, it is our belief that continuing arguments against the possibility of postnatal oogenesis in mammals should be based on more rigorous experimental approaches than simply an absence of evidence, especially from gene expression analyses. Further, the interpretations offered by Liu et al. of their results are not as straightforward as they contend since some of their data can also be viewed as supportive of postnatal oogenesis in reproductive age women.

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