Bioprosthetic Ovary May Provide Hope For Infertile Cancer Patients

 The first successful ovary created from a 3-D printer resulted in the birth of live mice pups.New technology may be a breakthrough for infertile women with the first successful ovary created from a 3-D printer resulting in the birth of live mice pups!

It’s sort of like the stuff of science fiction, but for many infertile women desperate to become pregnant and give birth, it may be the most amazing medical technology since in vitro fertilization came on the scene. According to CNN, researchers from the Women’s Health Research Institute at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine have created the first successful 3-D printed ovary.

The bioprosthetic ovary was created with a 3-D printer and seeded with follicular cells, which are what eventually become eggs for natural fertilization. Reproductive Scientist Teresa K. Woodruff said the ultimate goal of the artificial ovary would be to help cancer patients who underwent life-saving treatments (that left them sterile) restore their fertility.

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She worked with Ramille Shah, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering with the McCormick School of engineering and together, their team created an artificial ovary that was placed into a sterile mouse and gave way for natural fertilization and birth in the mouse.

The artificial ovary is basically a place where egg-containing follicles grow and are released for fertilization. It was seeded with egg follicles and then transferred to mice with no ovaries. Inside the newly created ovary, the follicles matured and the mice ovulated.

Once they mated, the mice carried to term at least two mouse pups each. Because of the nature of materials used in the production of the ovary, the blood flow from the mice through the pores of the ovary actually helped it transform into a working bioprosthetic inside the mouse.

Shah says that they were surprised, though pleasantly, that their production worked on the first try. But, it is only the first version and they are looking at how they can vary pore sizes and shapes because there are different follicle maturity stages that render the ovary to house them for complete bioprosthetic function. Inspired by the success, they are working on version two.
Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Director Dr. Anthony Atala, said that this research proves that 3-D bioprostheses can include follicles and still be functional, and that this has never been done before for the ovary. Passing the ultimate test — which was that the mice became pregnant and gave birth, is a big deal he says. It could lead to more advanced tissues being recreated and helping in different ways.

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The implications for human use are still unknown, according to Shah. The hope would be for human implantation within five years, but that would be for human trials. They dream of being able to make the artificial ovary a transplant for pediatric cancer patients. Ovarian function for them is not only necessary for reproductive ability, but for the long-term health of the endocrine system, bone health and cardiovascular health.

Once the cancer treatment is over, a pediatric patient could have the bioprosthetic ovary transplanted back, allowing them the possibility of fertility and health without the worry of reintroducing cancer.

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