Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago have successfully created an artificial ovary.Fertility is a major point of discussion when it comes to medical arena.Most families faces a lot of challenges when there is traces of infertility.Most infertility problems mostly bulges down to Ovaries on the side of our beautiful ladies.
The artificial ovary is a 3D-printed multi-layer scaffold made out of gelatin, a biological hydrogel that is strong enough to be self-supporting.The scaffold is filled with ovarian follicles, which contain immature egg cells. The structure is then transplanted into mice, where the follicles continue to mature until ovulation.Currently, women’s ovaries must be stimulated by daily injections to produce multiple eggs for the IVF procedure.
But the artificial ovary may allow eggs to be matured outside the body, so women would not have to go through the injections and hormones of ovarian stimulation. Additionally, immature eggs may be better able to withstand freezing than mature eggs, which can give women going through IVF a greater likelihood of becoming pregnant.
“These ovarian cells are spherical. They are three-dimensional, and it’s very critical that you maintain the right shape by giving them a three-dimensional structure” to live in, said Alexandra Rutz, one of the lead authors of the study, who participated in the project during her biomedical engineering graduate fellowship at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
“That’s where the scaffold comes in. It has pores in it like a sponge,” Rutz said. The pores can have different shapes, and the researchers found that one particular shape best supports the ovarian follicles. “Supporting their shape keeps them alive, and that keeps them functional,” she told Live Science.Using 3D-printing technology, researchers have created an artificial ovary that has successfully restored fertility in a sterilized mouse.
Researchers said the scaffold can recapitulate how an ovary would function in different stages in life, therefore an ovary implant could also help cancer survivors in terms of hormone replacement therapy.
“The biosynthetic ovary was implanted into the exact same place where we removed the originally ovary from,” Rutz said. “As the vessels grew into it, they naturally started picking up the hormones secreted by the ovarian cells and distributing them throughout the body to the target organs.”Rutz said that the most challenging aspect of the study was designing the pores of the ovarian scaffold so they could properly support the ovarian cells in the long term.
“Their ovaries don’t function at a high enough level, and they need to use hormone-replacement therapies in order to trigger puberty,” said Monica Laronda, another lead author of the paper and a former postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern. “The purpose of this scaffold is to recapitulate how an ovary would function. We’re thinking big picture, meaning every stage of the girl’s life — so puberty, through adulthood, to a natural menopause.”
“This is the first study that demonstrates that scaffold architecture makes a difference in follicle survival. We wouldn’t be able to do that if we didn’t use a 3D printer platform,” said Ramille Shah, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.This is a great progress towards the future we are all striving for.