Friday, 25 May, 2018

3D printed ovary implants produce healthy offspring

Melissa Porter | 17 May, 2017, 12:34

Scaffold for bioprosthetic mouse ovary printed with gelatin: A scientist holds a bioprosthetic mouse ovary made of gelatin with tweezers.

Infertile women could get help to conceive from a bioprosthetic, 3D-printed ovary that has allowed surgically sterilised mice to give birth to healthy offspring.

"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 IL.

While it's hard to say how quickly these technologies can be translated for human use, Shah said they are hoping that within five years a human implant will be made, though it is not likely to be a full functioning ovary replacement right off the bat.

Researchers at the Women's Health Research Institute at the university's Feinberg School of Medicine wanted to create some kind of prosthetic ovary, or "bioprosthesis".

"We can then put in individual ovarian follicles, which is a single egg which is surrounded by the cells that make estrogen and those individual follicles are placed into the structure and we can transplant into mice", she said.

"This is the first study that demonstrates that scaffold architecture makes a difference in follicle survival", Shah says. It has to be made out of organic materials that the body won't reject, but it also can't be too soft because then it'll fall apart during surgery and transplantation.

The paper will be published May 16 in Nature Communications.

"These bioprosthetic ovaries have long-term, durable function", said researcher Teresa Woodruff, of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Creating organs from scratch instead of transplanting them from another body is described as "the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine" by Teresa K. Woodruff, a reproductive scientist who was involved in the work.

"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", said Monica Laronda, co-lead author of this research and a former post-doctoral fellow in the Woodruff lab.

"The goal 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". "The ovary breaks down under hormonal control and allows the oocyte, the female egg, to move from the inside to the outside and it moves into the fallopian tube where it is fertilized".

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.

"Every organ has a skeleton", said Woodruff, who also is the Thomas J. Watkins Memorial Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. The solution came in the form of a gelatin seeded with immature eggs. The method has proven to work in mice, and researchers now expect to find a way to translate those results into humans.