Helping Mice Mate: 3D Printing Ovarian Envelopes

Northwestern University researchers have tested various 3d printing techniques to discover the angles at which ovarian follicles will optimally interact with their scaffolds to increase ovary survival. 30º and 60º angles apparently provide better protection and vascularization than 90º angles. The results have been harnessed to create a prosthetic implant that is meant to help restore fertility. Sterile mice implanted with these new follicle-infused scaffolds were able to reproduce through natural mating processes.

The hope for the future of this research is to provide renewed fertility to female cancer patients rendered sterile by their therapies. The ovarian bioprosthesis may also hold the key to restoring and/or improving hormone production, which has many applications, including enabling young patients to proceed naturally through puberty.

Click here to review the publication in the journal Nature Communications. Below is the foreword:

Emerging additive manufacturing techniques enable investigation of the effects of pore geometry on cell behavior and function. Here, we 3D print microporous hydrogel scaffolds to test how varying pore geometry, accomplished by manipulating the advancing angle between printed layers, affects the survival of ovarian follicles. 30° and 60° scaffolds provide corners that surround follicles on multiple sides while 90° scaffolds have an open porosity that limits follicle–scaffold interaction. As the amount of scaffold interaction increases, follicle spreading is limited and survival increases. Follicle-seeded scaffolds become highly vascularized and ovarian function is fully restored when implanted in surgically sterilized mice. Moreover, pups are born through natural mating and thrive through maternal lactation. These findings present an in vivo functional ovarian implant designed with 3D printing, and indicate that scaffold pore architecture is a critical variable in additively manufactured scaffold design for functional tissue engineering.

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