Germline Stem Cells pp 233-265
Study Origin of Germ Cells and Formation of New Primary Follicles in Adult Human and Rat Ovaries
The central thesis regarding the human ovaries is that, although primordial germ cells in embryonal ovaries are of extraovarian origin, those generated during the fetal period and in postnatal life are derived from the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) bipotent cells. With the assistance of immune system-related cells, secondary germ cells and primitive granulosa cells originate from OSE stem cells in the fetal and adult human gonads. Fetal primary follicles are formed during the second trimester of intrauterine life, prior to the end of immune adaptation, possibly to be recognized as self-structures and renewed later. With the onset of menarche, a periodical oocyte and follicular renewal emerges to replace aging primary follicles and ensure that fresh eggs for healthy babies are always available during the prime reproductive period. The periodical follicular renewal ceases between 35 and 40 yr of age, and the remaining primary follicles are utilized during the premenopausal period until exhausted. However, the persisting oocytes accumulate genetic alterations and may become unsuitable for ovulation and fertilization. The human OSE stem cells preserve the character of embryonic stem cells, and they may produce distinct cell types, including new eggs in vitro, particularly when derived from patients with premature ovarian failure or aging and postmenopausal ovaries. Our observations also indicate that there are substantial differences in follicular renewal between adult human and rat ovaries. As part of this chapter, we present in detail protocols utilized to analyze oogenesis in humans and to study interspecies differences when compared to the ovaries of rat females.