BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

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.

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