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article image3D printed ovaries produce mice pups

By Tim Sandle     May 19, 2017 in Science
Many biologists see 3D printing as a suitable technology for producing human tissues and organs, creating life-saving and health-enhancing biological constructs. In a breakthrough, a science groups have produced fully-working mice ovaries.
The breakthrough comes from a research group based at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine who, together with scientists from the McCormick School of Engineering, have successfully produced 3D-printed ovaries. In mice these ovaries have increased hormone production and restored fertility. In trials the mice implanted with the ovaries (after their natural ovaries had been removed) produced healthy pups.
Science fact:
Bioprinting is a special type of additive printing and a variant of 3D printing. With this process, an ink containing human cells is used in place of the conventional chemicals or plastics used with more standard 3D printers.
The process involved the researchers using additive printing to create microporous hydrogel scaffolds to support the survival of ovarian follicles. By varying the geometry of the scaffold, the researchers found that as interaction increases, follicle spreading became more limited and ovary survival increases.
Photo of a 3D printer.
Photo of a 3D printer.
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When the follicle-seeded scaffolds had a sufficient number of blood vessels they were implanted into surgically sterilized mice (female mice that had their ovaries removed). The mice were allowed to mate naturally. In time pups were born and survived. The female mice were able to feed their young through the production of milk (maternal lactation) as a mouse with natural ovaries would do.
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The research led to the successful generation of an in vivo functional ovarian implant generated from 3D printing. The research moves forward progress with functional tissue engineering. However, it will take several years before such biosynthetic ovaries can be considered for use in humans.
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Interviewed by Medical Express, lead researcher Dr. Monica Laronda said the ultimate goal of this research was to assist infertile women, especially women who have undergone cancer treatment. She states: “The purpose of this scaffold is to recapitulate how an ovary would function. We're thinking big picture, meaning every stage of the girl's life, so puberty through adulthood to a natural menopause.”
The 3D printing success has been reported to the journal Nature Communications. The research paper is titled “A bioprosthetic ovary created using 3D printed microporous scaffolds restores ovarian function in sterilized mice.”
More about 3D printing, additive printing, ovaries, Biology, bioprinting
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