Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

Wednesday May 17, 2017

Researchers Design 3-D Printed Ovaries that Produce Healthy Offspring

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed 3-D printing technology that may lead to discoveries in facilitating fertility for survivors of cancer. Many young cancer patients become sterilized from the life saving treatments they receive. Using test mice as subjects, the all female research team was able to 3-D print bio-prosthetic ovaries that ovulated and produced offspring in the mice. The mice had raised hormones, restored fertility, and were even able to nurse their young. The 3-D printed ovaries have scaffolds designed in them that hold immature eggs and is constructed using gelatin that is also safe for humans. This was particularity challenging as other researchers have failed to find a method that allows the structure to be rigid enough to be handled during surgery, but yet porous enough to naturally interact with the mouse's body tissues.

This method could cause the body to naturally enter puberty, adulthood, and a natural menopause. Today hormone replacement therapies are needed to trigger puberty. Also this research could lead to future advances in soft tissue regenerative medicine. I found this article particularly interesting as I'm sure that most of us know someone that has been affected by cancer. Arranging the structure of the scaffolding to mimic the skeleton of the original organ was quite amazing to read about as most of us don't associate the word skeleton with soft tissue organs in the body. Last of all it was refreshing to read how this research will lead to more discoveries in soft tissue regenerative medicine that will ultimately benefit more types of patients. I highly recommend reading about this research that Northwestern University is pioneering.

"This research shows these bioprosthetic ovaries have long-term, durable function," said Teresa K. Woodruff, a reproductive scientist and director of the Women’s Health Research Institute at Feinberg. "Using bioengineering, instead of transplanting from a cadaver, 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."

"Most hydrogels are very weak, since they’re made up of mostly water, and will often collapse on themselves," Shah said. "But 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." "This is the first study that demonstrates that scaffold architecture makes a difference in follicle survival," Shah said. "We wouldn’t be able to do that if we didn’t use a 3-D printer platform."