3D-PRINTED OVARIES LET MICE GIVE BIRTH TO HEALTHY PUPS
Infertile women wanting to have children have been offered fresh hope, after scientists at Chicago’s Northwestern University have successfully 3D-printed fully functioning mouse ovaries.
In a world first, the team implanted the artificial ovaries into mice, which were then able to produce eggs, mate and give birth to healthy pups. They were even able to nurse their young naturally after they were born.
The technique has so far only been tested in animals, but the ultimate goal of the research is to produce artificial organs to implant into human patients who have damaged ovaries as a result of cancer or other illnesses.
“This research shows these bioprosthetic ovaries have longterm, durable function,” said researcher Teresa K Woodruff. “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.”
The ovaries were built on 3D-printed gelatin scaffolds that were then populated with immature eggs. Gelatin is rigid enough to handle during surgery but porous enough to interact with the mouse’s own tissues. Its open structure also allows space for the egg cells to mature and for blood vessels to form within the implant, enabling hormones to circulate and trigger lactation once the mouse has given birth.