3D-printed ovaries successfully restore mouse's fertility in 'holy grail of bioengineering'

Posted May 18, 2017

Located in IL, the team of scientists at Northwestern announced mice implanted with 3D printed ovaries have successfully produced healthy pups.

By removing a female mouse's ovary and replacing it with a bioprosthetic ovary, the mouse was able to not only ovulate but also give birth to healthy pups.

A mouse with 3D-printed ovaries has successfully given birth to healthy pups, according to a new study.

The review by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering found that by evacuating a female mouse' ovary and supplanting it with a bioprosthetic ovary, the mouse could ovulate as well as bring forth solid pups. "Utilizing bioengineering, rather than transplanting from a dead body, to make organ structures that capacity and reestablish the wellbeing of that tissue for that individual is the heavenly chalice of bioengineering for regenerative solution".

The team is hopeful that similar bioprosthetic ovaries can be implanted in human patients to restore fertility, using a patient's own previously extracted follicles or donated samples.

Ramille Shah, Assistant Professor at the Northwestern University said, the architecture of the scaffold and the material, or "ink", that was used in the bioprosthetic ovaries are different from other 3-D printed structures.

Woodruff said that the ultimate goal was not just to allow women to get pregnant, but to restore the total health of a woman's endocrine system. The ovaries were built by printing various patterns of overlapping gelatin filaments on glass slides - each "scaffold" measured a mere 15 by 15 millimeters.

"Our hope is that one day this ovarian bioprosthesis is really the ovary of the future", said Teresa Woodruff at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Monica Laronda: Creating an engineered ovary was motivated by the need to restore hormone function and the option of fertility in young girls or women whose ovaries are affected by disease or treatments.

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The team created biological hydrogel made from broken-down collagen that was easy to handle during surgery and interacted well with the mice tissue. At a certain temperature, the team found that they could print complex, multi-layered structures with it, and eventually this led them to constructing a synthetic ovary.

Martin Ledwick, head information cancer nurse for Cancer Research UK says: "Fertility preservation is an important issue for many patients whose treatment is likely to leave them infertile..."

After that first attempt, they looked for another way to create the "bioprosthetic." and made a decision to use a 3-D printed ovary.

Although it required decades of research to be able to 3D-print these ovary scaffolds in the first place, the team uncovered plenty of new information along the way.

Young patients who lose ovary function often need hormone replacement therapy to trigger puberty. It also allowed for the formation of blood vessels, which permitted the circulation of hormones during pregnancy, and triggered lactation after birth. We restored ovarian function with this bioprosthetic ovary in sterilized mice.

There's more on how 3-D printing works in medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"Right now we are using this fundamental discovery to being to scale that bio prosthetic ovary for larger animals", Woodruff said. The scaffold supports the survival of the mouse's immature egg cells and the cells that produce hormones to boost production.

The paper is distributed in Nature Communications.