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Mice Born With 3D Printed Ovaries – Will Humans Be Next?

Experts hope the breakthrough will open new doors for young cancer patients who suffer from infertility.

Published
Health News
2 min read
Ovaries grown on 3-D printed structures were successfully implanted into sterilised mice that were then able to conceive. Image used for representational purposes (Photo: iStock)

Artificial ovaries grown in a lab might someday be available for women who are unable to conceive on their own, a study on mice suggests.

Ovaries grown on 3-D printed structures were successfully implanted into sterilised mice that were then able to have pups, researchers report.

Co-senior author Teresa Woodruff, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago said:

We’re learning more about the fundamental biology of the ovary through these 3-D printed structures and this new knowledge is aiding in the next generation of options that we’re working towards for young cancer patients.

Properly functioning ovaries produce eggs as well as hormones like estrogen. Certain therapies, like those that kill cancer cells, can harm the ovaries, leading to problems with puberty, reproduction, and menopause.

Existing treatments for ovarian dysfunction, like in vitro fertilisation and ovarian transplants, don't provide patients with long-term solutions, Woodruff and colleagues write in Nature Communications.

To restore ovarian function in sterilized female mice, the researchers printed a 3-D structure out of biologic ink to support ovarian follicles, which are fluid-filled sacs that contain immature eggs.

Woodruff describes the follicles as fundamental elements of the ovary. The lab-grown ovaries were implanted in mice that mated. The mice gave birth naturally and were able to feed their pups by producing milk.

Despite the success with lab-grown ovaries in mice, the possibility of their use in humans is a long way off.

"There is obviously a lot of work that’s going to be needed, but being able to show the function of these 3-D ovaries is a big breakthrough," said Nina Desai, director of the Cleveland Clinic In Vitro Fertilization Lab, who was not involved with the new study, "It’s really important to be able to show that it is a feasible thing.”

Ultimately, she said, they hope younger girls may be able to use the technology go through normal puberty and be fertile, while older women may gain the benefits of hormone production that protects their heart and bones.

We’re hoping these advances lead to more options for pediatric and adult cancer patients in the future.
Nina Desai, Director, Cleveland Clinic In Vitro Fertilization Lab

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