A new hope is on the horizon for infertile women now that the scientists successfully designed and printed ovaries made by a 3D printer. These artificial ovaries were implanted in a mouse who then mated and delivered healthy offspring.
Although this procedure is still in its initial phases of testing on animals, scientists have high hopes of it being applied in humans when the time comes. The long-term goal seems to be to help women who have gone through chemotherapy which resulted in infertility, or those with other fertility issues.
At the present moment, this impressive process is being done solely on mice but they are actively working on making the ovaries bigger in size in order to be implanted into larger animals and finally human patients.
These prosthetic ovaries were printed from liquid gelatin that is extracted from collagen that has been broken down. This natural material is found in muscles, bones, skin, ligaments and tendons which make it the perfect building material for such a delicate project.
The ovaries have been designed and printed as fully functional, complete with porous structure that can trigger the egg production, room for maturing of the egg cells and hormone circulation, among other functions.
Dr Monica Laronda, one of the research authors, explained how the process unfolded by describing how a technician removed mices real ovary and replaced it with a printed one, which they now call a scaffold. The mouse was stitched up, mated and finally able to give live birth.
Dr Laronda also noted that when it comes to cancer patients, specifically, is that their ovaries simply cannot function as they are supposed to due to harsh cancer treatments. This results in patients having to use hormone replacement therapies with less than guaranteed results, which is to be expected.
Although it is not yet clear whether this procedure will actually be beneficial to human patients in the future, the research team is moving forward by working on optimizing a larger ovary design that would eventually be approved for human testing. This breakthrough is certainly a step in the right direction for all those patients suffering from infertility.