3D printed ovaries produce healthy offspring giving hope to infertile women

This time, they've created ovaries from a type of gelatin hydrogel and infused them with immature egg cells before implanting them in female mice.

A team of biologists, pediatricians, and engineers at Northwestern University have devised and executed a method for constructing new ovaries for mice. Images show a group of mouse "pups" that glow fluorescent green under ultraviolet light, which helps the researchers identify them when compared with non-glowing control subjects.

Scientists have successfully 3D printed ovaries that not only boost hormone production and actually ovulate, but also produce healthy offspring.

"The idea that a young cancer patient who has to undergo chemotherapy would have an ovary taken out before the first sterilization treatment, that tissue preserved, her ovarian follicles isolated and then when she's ready we could give her a new ovary", said Teresa Woodruff, a reproductive scientist and director of the Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern, according to Gizmodo.

Researchers with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering in Evanston, both in IL, have used a 3-D bioprinter to create bioprosthetic ovaries to treat infertility in mice.

The achievement is described in the journal Nature Communications.

Of course, it's all well and good for infertile mice, but when will the technology start to make a difference in human lives? "We found a gelatin temperature that allows it to be self-supporting, not collapse, and lead to building multiple layers. No one else has been able to print gelatin with such well-defined and self-supported geometry", said Shah. The mice that gave birth also lactated naturally, which demonstrated that the follicles embedded in the scaffolds produced normal levels of hormones. And while doctors have had some success in restoring women's fertility from frozen ovarian tissue, an implant could potentially help those who do not bank healthy tissue when they are children. Instead, human trials might begin with a structure that substitutes for just the hormone production function of an ovary.

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The fact that such a complex organ can be replaced by a 3D printed one has big implications for the future of regenerative medicine, as well, taking us another step closer to being able to 3D print functional organs and transplant them into humans.

Technically, how does biological 3-D printing work? Kids can lay the logs at right points to shape structures.

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

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For this particular organ, this has never been done before, he said, though other structures, including cartilage, muscle and bone, have been 3-D printed and implanted into patients.

3D printing has been used in the past to produce a range of human organs.

Scaffolding supports the materials necessary to fix the structure until it is eventually removed. What's left is a structure fit for holding itself up. 3-D printed scaffolds are implanted into the woman and its pores optimize how the immature eggs are positioned within the scaffold. They were transplanted into mice whose ovaries had been previously removed.

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