Infertile mice have been given the ability to birth healthy offspring, thanks to new 3D-printed ovaries that connected with the animals’ blood supply in just one week, and started releasing eggs.
Researchers now plan on testing these artificial ovaries in pigs, and if all goes well, human trials will follow.
“You have to house both the small ones and the large ones, and you have to have an environment that can provide cross-talk between these follicles, because that’s how the natural ovary signals for only specific ones to ovulate,” Shah told CNN. The pores also had to be arranged to ensure the right amount of blood flow through the artificial ovaries.
The organs were transplanted into female mice that had ovaries surgically removed, and of the seven that mated after the implant, three gave birth to litters of offspring.
The mothers were also able to lactate, which means their hormone signals were still in working order after having their natural ovaries removed. The team is hoping to scale up their artificial ovary ‘pattern’, and 3D-print larger versions for infertile pigs.
“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,” one of the team, Monica Laronda, said in a statement.