Scientists have used a 3-D printer to create a mouse ovary capable of producing healthy offspring.

May 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

The list of things that can be created with 3-D printers keeps getting longer: jewelry, art, guns, food, medical devices and, now, mouse ovaries.

Scientists have used a 3-D printer to create a mouse ovary capable of producing healthy offspring. And researchers hope to create replacement human ovaries the same way someday.

“It’s really the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine,” says Teresa Woodruff, who led the new research published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

The ultimate goal is to create replacement ovaries to restore fertility in women who became sterile after medical treatment, such as cancer chemotherapy, Woodruff says. She hopes to test a human ovary within a few years.

For some time now, doctors have been able to restore the fertility of certain cancer patients by removing and freezing some of their ovarian tissue before they undergo chemotherapy and transplanting it back into them later. Some doctors have even tried doing the same thing with entire ovaries.

 

A scientist holds a bioprosthetic mouse ovary made of gelatin with tweezers.

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

But those approaches have shortcomings. The tissue may harbor cancer cells, Woodruff says, and the transplants usually only function for a limited time, depriving the women of the other benefits of a functioning reproductive system, like keeping bones healthy. That’s especially challenging for women who lose their fertility as children or young adults, Woodruff says.

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