In a latest study, scientists have claimed to create artificial 3D-printed ovaries with biological hydrogel that would help infertile women to conceive. Researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering have carried out the study.
The researchers used sterilised mice for the experiment in which their ovaries were replaced by artificial 3D-printed ovaries. They later gave birth to healthy babies. The artificial ovaries also helped the mice to produce breast milk to feed their newborn.
The scientists said the 'ovary scaffold or skeleton' were implanted in female mice, which supported survival of immature egg cells, as well as the cells that aided hormone secretion and enhance production.
The open structure also allows room for the egg cells to mature and ovulate, as well as blood vessels to form within the implant enabling the hormones to circulate within the bloodstream and trigger lactation after giving birth.
"This research shows these bio-prosthetic ovaries have long-term, durable function," Teresa K Woodruff, a reproductive scientist and director of the Women's Health Research Institute at Feinberg said.
"Using bioengineering, instead of transplanting from a cadaver, to create organ structures that function and restore the health of that tissue for that person, is the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine," Woodruff added.
The scientists created these ovaries using gelatin, a biological hydrogel made from broken, down collagen that is safe to use in humans. It also acts as "scaffolding" to create the artificial ovaries.
According to reports, the researchers are carrying out further tests and aim at using this technology to aid infertile women who underwent cancer treatment. They want to restore their fertility by stimulating their hormone production.
"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 in order to trigger puberty," Monica Laronda, co-lead author of this research and a former post-doctoral fellow in the Woodruff lab said.
"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," she added.