Mouse with 3D-printed ovaries gives birth to healthy pups

18 May, 2017, 01:07 | Author: Joy Garcia
  • 3D-printed ovaries restore fertility in mice

With such ovary implants using 3D printed ovaries, infertile mice restores their fertility and gives birth to healthy pups.

After 3-D printing a biodegradable scaffold, researchers placed the mouse's follicle cells, which are egg-producing cells naturally found in ovaries, into the scaffold, Popular Science noted.

In its one-of-a-kind discovery, experts at the Northwestern University in America were able to successfully implant 3-dimensional ovaries in female mice.

This structure created and infused inside the female mouse allowed the ovarian follicles, which produce hormones during pregnancy, to function properly within the manufactured ovary and led to the creature eventually delivering healthy pups.

This is the first time a functional soft tissue transplant has been 3D-printed, as well as the first time functional 3D-printed organs have been transplanted.

"Our hope is that one day this ovarian bioprosthesis is really the ovary of the future", Northwestern researcher and coauthor Teresa Woodruff told The Guardian.

"Right now, we're able to do that with young mice and the goal ultimately is to provide this to [human] patients".

The shape of the printed ovarian scaffold was modelled closely on the external supporting structure of a real mouse ovary.

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The researchers undertook the study because they want to find a way to help patients of all ages who undergo treatments (such as for cancer) that impair their ovary function.

A mouse that was born from the bioprosthetic ovary lays next to its mother mouse. The team found a gelatin temperature that allowed it to support itself, leading to the ability to create multiple layers.

Hydrogels are a mixture of 99 percent water and a little bit of polymer, which means they can tend to be quite soft, but the Northwestern team was able to manipulate their gelatin ink to give it a flexible but firm quality. The team showed that blood vessels from each mouse infiltrated the scaffolds. Using a 3D-printer and gelatin, they then printed the basic structure of the ovary, and dosed it with the cultured ovarian follicles.

"What happens with some of our cancer patients is that their ovaries don't function at a high enough level and they need to use hormone replacement therapies in order to trigger puberty", explained Monica Laronda, Assistant Professor at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital in Illinois, US. The researchers punched out 2-millimeter circles through the scaffolds and implanted 40-50 follicles into each one, creating a "bioprosthetic" ovary. This material is safe for use in humans and is rigid enough for use in surgery, as well as porous enough to allow cells to interact with surrounding tissue.

"The revolution of being able to 3-D print internal organs is going to be move very quickly", Woodruff said.

Woodruff noted she hopes to address some of the challenges soon, such as finding a printing method that ensures the best chances of the egg cells maturing, as well as discovering a material that will create sustainable organs in humans. Alexandra Rutz, co-lead author of the study that appeared Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, likens 3D-printing the ovaries to working with Lincoln Logs, a classic construction toy based on stacking tiny logs.

The framework underpins the survival of the mouse's juvenile egg cells and the cells that deliver hormones to lift generation.

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