Infertile women have been offered new hope after scientists 3D printed ovaries and used them to produce healthy offspring.
In a world’s first, US researchers created an artificial ovary and implanted it into a mouse, which went on to produce eggs, mate successfully, and give birth to healthy pups.
Although the procedure has only been tested on animals so far, the long term aim is to help restore fertility and hormone production in women who have undergone chemotherapy and possibly other infertility issues, such as polycystic ovaries.
Around 24,000 women of child-bearing age are diagnosed with cancer every year in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK.
“The real breakthrough here is we’re building a real ovarian prosthesis and the goal of this project is to be able to restore fertility to young cancer patients who have been sterilised by their cancer treatment,” said Dr Teresa Woodruff, a reproductive scientist director of the Women’s Health Research Institute, at Northwestern University, in Illinois.
“Right now, we’re able to do that with young mice and the goal ultimately is to provide this back to patients.
“Using bioengineering 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. Our hope is that this will be the ovary of the future.”
The prosthetic ovaries were printed using liquid gelatin made from broken-down collagen, a natural material which is found in ligaments, tendons, muscles, bones and skin, researcher reported in the journal Nature Communications.
Image Credit: Northwestern University