When it comes to combating fertility problems, this new research could be a game-changer for women.
A small study carried out by the University of Edinburgh has discovered that the human ovary may be able to grow new eggs in adulthood, reports The Guardian.
In modern science, it is accepted that women are born with a set number of eggs, and once they hit middle age, the number of eggs starts to decline before menopause sets in. Yet the university's research, which involved cancer patients, found that young women who had been given a chemotherapy drug had a higher quantity of eggs in their ovaries than healthy women of the same age.
The study, led by Professor Evelyn Telfer, initially set out to analyze ovarian biopsies to uncover why the drug, called ABVD, does not produce the same fertility issues that are often associated with other types of chemotherapy medication. Instead, Telfer was astounded by the "remarkable" findings.
"This was something remarkable and completely unexpected for us," Telfer said. "The tissue appeared to have formed new eggs. The dogma is that the human ovary has a fixed population of eggs and that no new eggs form throughout life."
Scientists have been quick to point out that this doesn't mean the treatment will be on offer immediately, as more research into the ABVD drug is needed.
Nick Macklon, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southampton, is one expert who has shared his concerns about the results. He told The Guardian that the work is "hugely controversial."
"The slight worry is that clinicians are very quick to pick up anything that will improve IVF," he added. "There's no evidence at this stage that these drugs would improve the odds for people who are having a poor response to IVF drugs."
However, the study has confirmed one thing. Ovaries are definitely complicated.
"I think that these findings, and the identification of the mechanisms involved, may pave the way for development of new fertility treatments or extend women's reproductive span by replenishment of the ovaries with new follicles," said Kenny Rodriguez-Wallberg from University Hospital in Stockholm.
"It suggests that the ovary is indeed a more complex and versatile organ than we have been taught, or that we expected, with an inherent capacity of renewal."
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.