In Brief
Northwestern University researchers have managed to 3D print ovaries for infertile mice, allowing them to resume their cycles and give birth.

The Newest Fertility Treatment

What’s the newest method for treating infertility? 3D printing.

It seems there is no end to what 3D printing technology can create. This time, a group of scientists from Northwestern University managed to print a fully functional ovary that they implanted into mice that had their ovaries removed.

The team produced the ovaries from material similar to jello combined with living cells. Not only did the 3D printed ovaries allow the mice to resume their monthly cycle, they also managed to successfully give birth.

Egg cell under the microscope. Image credit: Shutterstock.com

The process is explained in the press release, “The researchers used a 3D printer to create a scaffold to support hormone-producing cells and immature egg cells, called oocytes. The structure was made out of gelatin – a biological material derived from the animal protein collagen. The scientists applied biological principles to manufacture the scaffold, which needed to be rigid enough to be handled during surgery and to provide enough space for oocyte growth, blood vessel formation and ovulation.”

Bioprosthesis

While the study was conducted on mice, researchers have every intention of expanding it one day to develop a way to create an ovary bioprosthesis for women. This could restore fertility to women who survived cancer, a disease which raises the risk of infertility as adults, or help women who suffer from a host of other diseases and conditions.

“One of the biggest concerns for patients diagnosed with cancer is how the treatment may affect their fertility and hormone health,” said lead study author Monica M. Laronda, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “We are developing new ways to restore their quality of life by engineering ovary bioprosthesis implants.”

The materials used in the experiments are currently already used in humans, applied with a scalable 3D printing method and manufacturing techniques inspired by human biology.