Researchers create prosthetic ovary using gelatin and a 3D printer

The scaffold for the 3-D printed mouse ovary

The treatment could be particularly helpful for women who've had childhood cancer or have undergone cancer treatment, since these patients often display hormone insufficiencies, difficulties becoming pregnant, and have limited fertility options.

Woodruff, a reproductive scientist at the Northwestern University in the United States said, "This research shows these bioprosthetic ovaries have long-term, durable function".

"Our hope is that one day this ovarian bioprosthesis is really the ovary of the future", commented Teresa Woodruff, from Northwestern University in Chicago.

Commonly found in food, gelatin is a "biological hydrogel made from broken-down collagen that is safe to use 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 pores also had to be arranged to ensure the right amount of blood flow through the artificial ovaries.

"They have managed to create a matrix in which they can embed ovarian tissue and they've then managed to implant that back in a mouse and made it work", she said.

The structure was implanted into mice whose ovaries had been removed. They later gave birth to healthy babies. Instead, human trials might begin with a structure that substitutes for just the hormone production function of an ovary.

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It is now possible to print 3-D organs.

"This bioprosthetic ovary may become a promising solution for restoring hormone and fertility function in oncofertility [cancer] patients", the paper said. It provided a great scaffold for us that was able to expand its own weight, it has multiple layers, and normally when you print gelatin it collapses on itself, but she was able to do it in a way that was able to maintain those layers separately.

"We're the first to develop software for transplants that have been 3-D printed", she said.

In some cancer patients, the ovaries do not function at a high enough level and hormone replacement therapy is required. "We're preparing to stun the world picture, which means each phase of the young lady's life, so adolescence through adulthood to a characteristic menopause". Young girls going through the cancer treatment will simply need to cryopreserve the ovary prior to treatment and then scientists can use their genetic material to make new ovaries when they are ready to have children. "We wouldn't be able to do that if we didn't use a 3-D printer platform".

"Each organ has a skeleton", said Woodruff, who likewise is the Thomas J. Watkins Memorial Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and an individual from the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

While it's hard to say how quickly these technologies can be translated for human use, Shah said they are hoping that within five years a human implant will be made, though it is not likely to be a full functioning ovary replacement right off the bat. But human ovaries are a lot bigger and more complicated than mouse ovaries, and there has been concern that the material and method of constructing the ovaries wouldn't hold up if you tried the same thing in people.

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