According to the latest CDC records, about 12% of women aged 15-44 are suffering from some sorts of infertility; yet, less than 2% of infertile couples actually undergo assisted reproductive therapy (ART). Besides the prohibitive cost of infertility treatments, many factors, including diminished population of immature egg cells in ovaries, premature ovarian failure/insufficiency, genetic causes, and immunological abnormalities lead to the failure of the therapy. To overcome the limitations of ART, we resort to pluripotent stem cells that can be differentiated into functional oocytes. Pluripotent stem cells can be found in the ovaries of adult female mammals as female germline stem cells (fGSCs) or oogonial stem cells (OSCs), which recruit somatic cells (granulosa cells) to form new follicles in ovaries. Also, other types of pluripotent stem cells such as embryonic stem cells (ESCs) or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) can serve as a source of cells with germline potential capable of generating oocytes. The generation of viable offspring from these various sources of germline progenitors currently relies on the use of in vivo systems. Hence, it is critical to develop methods to successfully generate functional eggs entirely in vitro from any germline progenitor cell source.

Technology Overview

Researchers at Northeastern designed a new ex vivo system that involves a specific combination of germ cells and somatic cells from the same individual to generate functional eggs entirely outside the body. Also, the cell population that serves the egg-producing cells can be modified by means of various gene deletion/insertion methods for desired features prior to fertilization and embryogenesis. Somatic cells in this system are granulosa cells of existing primordial stage follicles in ovaries that form new follicles necessary for survival, meiotic arrest and maturation. Granulosa cells or their precursors can also be obtained through spontaneous or directed differentiation of multi-potent cell populations including, but not limited to, ESCs, iPSCs, bone marrow-derived cells, and peripheral blood-derived cells. Ovarian tissue can be collected and placed in an ex vivo culture system to provide the natural support structure facilitating the interaction of oocyte with the granulosa cells required. Additional matrix support including, alginate, matrigel, gelatin, and/or laminin, can be used to facilitate the aforementioned interaction. This method not only can introduce a new infertility treatment, but also provides the possibility of genetic enhancement. In addition to the use for infertility treatment, this invention can be used for improved production of domestic, companion, and endangered animal species. 


  • Possibility of infertility treatment for women who are not candidates for assisted reproductive technology
  • Removing the need for exogenous hormonal suppression
  • cost saving 


  • Infertility treatment for women who are not candidates for assisted reproductive technology
  • Introduction of desired genetic manipulation before egg fertilization
  • Correction of genetic aberration and genetic disorders before egg fertilization 
  • Improved production of domestic, companion, and endangered animal species 


  • License
  • Partnering
  • Research collaboration
Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Mark Saulich
Associate Director of Commercialization
Northeastern University
Jonathan Tilly
Dori Woods
Medical Device