New 3-D printed ovaries could produce healthy offspring

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New 3-D printed ovaries could produce healthy offspring

The brave new world of 3-D printed organs now includes implanted ovary structures that, true to their design, actually ovulate, according to a study.

By removing a female mouse’s ovary and replacing it with a bioprosthetic ovary, the mouse could not only ovulate but also give birth to healthy pups. The moms were even able to nurse their young.

The bioprosthetic ovaries are constructed of 3-D printed scaffolds that house immature eggs, and have been successful in boosting hormone production and restoring fertility in mice, which was the goal of the research.

The paper is published in Nature Communications.

How is this research different from other 3-D printed structures?

What sets this research apart from other labs is the architecture of the scaffold and the material, or “ink,” the scientists are using, said Ramille Shah, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at McCormick and of surgery at Feinberg.

That material is gelatin, which is a biological hydrogel made from broken-down collagen that is safe to use in humans.

The scientists knew that whatever scaffold they created needed to be made of organic materials that were rigid enough to be handled during surgery and porous enough to naturally interact with the mouse’s body tissues.

“Most hydrogels are very weak, since they’re made up of mostly water, and will often collapse on themselves,” Shah said.

“But we found a gelatin temperature that allows it to be self-supporting, not collapse, and lead to building multiple layers. No one else has been able to print gelatin with such well-defined and self-supported geometry.”

That geometry directly links to whether the ovarian follicles, organized hormone-producing support cells surrounding an immature egg cell, will survive in the ovary, which was one of the bigger findings in the study.

How does this impact humans?

The scientists’ sole objective for developing the bioprosthetic ovaries was to help restore fertility and hormone production in women who have undergone adult cancer treatments or those who survived childhood cancer and now have increased risks of infertility and hormone-based developmental issues.

“What happens with some of our cancer patients is that their ovaries don’t function at a high enough level and they need to use hormone replacement therapies to trigger puberty,” said Monica Laronda, co-lead author of this research.

Additionally, the successful creation of 3-D printed implants to replace complex soft tissue could significantly impact future work in soft tissue regenerative medicine.

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News source: Northwestern University. The content is edited for length and style purposes.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to Northwestern University.