By combining 3D printing with biology, a team of scientists managed to help mice get pregnant and produce healthy, living offspring. The researchers managed to do so by creating bioprosthetic ovaries. Their study results could have significant implications for future fertility treatments.
3D Printing, a New Key to Treating Infertility?
This new research was carried out by a team of scientists from the Northwestern University. They come from both the Feinberg School of Medicine and the McCormick School of Engineering. A paper with their results is featured in the May issue of the journal Biomaterials.
The researchers combined their knowledge and developed a bioprosthetic ovary. They managed to do so by combining 3D printing technology with ovarian tissue follicles. When merged, the two helped create a sort of scaffold, which was later introduced and placed in the mouse.
These structures acted as new but synthetic ovaries. Follow-up observations show that this new part helped increase the fertility of the respective mice. In managed to do so by offering a boost to their hormone production. Later on, the mice equipped with these prosthetic ovaries were also got pregnant and then gave birth to living, healthy offsprings.
As the team pointed out, this new study is looking to offer a new possible infertility option. More exactly, it could help women affected by childhood cancer. Young patients about to start such a treatment would simply have to cryopreserve the ovary before beginning the therapy.
Based on this genetic material and with help from the same 3D printing technique, scientists could then create new ovaries. Teresa K. Woodruff, one of the senior authors of the study, stated that this method could also help older women looking to have a child or those with low ovarian reserve.
However, she also pointed out that the technology is still some years away from being commonly used. Still, Northwestern already started banking ovarian tissue. Presently, it holds samples from 375 human patients with ages between one month and 39 years old. 98 centers around the country are currently participating in its program.
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