A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications describes how scientists replaced a mouse’s ovary with a 3D printed one. The ovary belonged to an infertile mouse, and the 3D printed one helped it breed and give birth to two pups. By using the ovarian follicles of the mouse itself, researchers were able to produce the 3D printed replica.
Using 3D printed ovaries to recover the fertility of ovarian cancer patients
Researchers discovered how a bioprosthetic could work like a real ovary for a mouse. The 3D printed version helped the mouse ovulate, breed, give birth to two pups, and then nurse them. Scientists are now optimistic and hope the same technology could be used for humans.
This 3D printing technique might be used for cancer patients. If the affected ovary is removed from the patient before the sterilization process, researchers might be able to preserve its tissue and the ovarian follicles, and then use them to 3D print a functional new ovary. Also, this treatment should help other women who remained sterile to restore their fertility.
There are many challenges on the way
However, researchers still have to overcome the challenge of producing a functional human ovary. A mouse ovary is much smaller and somehow easier to produce, yet the process was still difficult. First of all, they had to remove the natural ovaries and sterilize them, then collect the follicles which they attached to the 3D printed material.
Afterwards, they transplanted them into the mouse, waited until blood vessels formed around it, and then the animal regained its fertility, gave birth, and the ovary acted as if it was natural. Therefore, this method works perfectly with mice.
The next step is to make it functional for women, too. Previously, the team conducted by Teresa Woodruff managed to create mini-3D printed models of egg cells, and succeeded to grow immature cells into mature ones.
Before switching to humans, the team wants to grow 3D printed ovaries for pigs, but they are optimistic and think they will be able to apply the technology on women sometime in the next few years.
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