MAY 17, 2017 06:24 AM PDT

These 3D-Printed Mouse Ovaries Are Fully Functional

Researchers based out of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering, both located in Illinois, have been working on a method of bringing fertility back to the lives of those who want to give birth, but can’t.

Starting with lab mouse research, they report being able to successfully 3D-print “ovaries” that were fully functional; capable of helping female mice give birth to live young despite complications that otherwise prevented them from doing so.

Lab mice were used in the experiment to produce a 3D-printed 'ovary.'

Image Credit: Tiburi/Pixabay

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers describe how the method’s success could translate to real-world help for even humans.

Infertility can happen for many reasons, whether a person underwent harsh treatments to help with other life-threatening illnesses, diseases destroyed the ovaries’ operational prowess, or genetics simply rendered the person unable to reproduce.

No matter what the case is, this study shows that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel for females who want to be mothers and aren’t able to be for one health-based reason or another.

Although scientists have been growing organs in labs for years (including ovaries), 3D-printing is still an emerging technology that has the potential to revolutionize the way we manufacture organs in a lab-based environment. Not only is it more cost-efficient, but it’s also faster.

Related: Researchers grow a human ear on the back of a lab rat

Not only did the 3D-printed “ovaries” work as expected for producing the egg cells necessary for conception, but they also worked properly as hormone regulators, which is another key importance as some women have both ovaries removed surgically to prevent health issues down the line.

To make 3D-printing ovaries possible, the researchers had to dissect a real ovary and study its key building blocks under a microscope to better understand how to replicate it with a 3D printer.

They had found that a unique lattice layer of collagen actually works as an exoskeleton and deeper layers in the ovary are made up of other complicated things like follicles and tissues, all of which would need to be replicated to produce a working ovary.

Once they understood the collagen exoskeleton, they had to find a way to discharge tissue 'ink,' which was made out of gelatin, out of a 3D printer head and into a 3D-printed scaffold. They found this 'ink' needed to be expelled at a very specific temperature (30º C) so that it wouldn’t be too hot and watery or too cold and clumpy for the 3D printing process.

After determining what temperature would work, they moved on to producing the layers of the arificial ovary. Although a lot of trial and error went into it, they finally came up with a solution that seemed to work and they moved to the testing phase.

This may not look like a traditional ovary, but it certainly worked like one in this study.

Image Credit: Northwestern Unviersity

This was where the researchers reportedly performed surgery on nine different female mice, removing one functioning ovary and implanting the 3D-printed ovary in its place. Two of the mice were purposely left with infertility as controls, and out of the seven others, three had babies after mating with males.

To ensure that there would be no genetic issues down the line, researchers continually allowed the newborns to grow up and mate with other mice for generations to ensure that the 3D-printed ovary in grandma mouse wouldn’t somehow have an adverse side-effect on the development or health her great grandson or great, great granddaughter.

To their surprise, everything worked out as it would have if grandma mouse had a natural ovary, which suggests that, at least in animal models, 3D-printed ovaries could become a possible safe treatment for infertility.

Related: 3D printing can be used to create stem cells

The team plans to test their 3D-printing method of ovary replacements in larger animals down the line. Since mouse ovaries are relatively small and simple, trying to replicate a much larger ovary that mimics the size of a human ovary will be more challenging. Nevertheless, it’s an important step to ensure we get things right the first time.

The future looks bright for 3D-printing, which will automate so many processes in both the manufacturing and medical industries. It ought to be interesting to see what else comes out of this fascinating technology.

Source: Popular Science, Wired

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 04, 2018
Technology
AUG 04, 2018
AI Designs Drugs From Scratch
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has demonstrated unique qualities in the past decade. Recent research has used AI to further advance software programs and inn...
AUG 11, 2018
Technology
AUG 11, 2018
A Video Game That Teaches Empathy
Can a video game build positive growth for children? According to a study published in the Science of Learning (a Nature journal), a video game exploring a...
AUG 15, 2018
Neuroscience
AUG 15, 2018
Bees Know What Zero Means
There is much concern over the dwindling population of honey bees. They are needed for pollination and for ecosystems to stay in balance, but soon research...
AUG 20, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 20, 2018
Martian Dust Storm Begins Clearing, Sparking Hope for the Opportunity Rover
Back in June, Mars became enveloped by a planet-wide dust storm. The dust from the storm blocked so much sunlight that NASA felt compelled to put its solar...
OCT 05, 2018
Health & Medicine
OCT 05, 2018
A Caterpillar Robot for Drug Delivery? Ya, That's a Thing
Drug delivery is a significant part of medical research since a drug cannot work if it cannot access the part of the body where it's needed. Nanotechno...
OCT 10, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 10, 2018
OnSight Lets Scientists Study the Martian Surface with Virtual Reality
NASA’s Curiosity rover has been physically exploring the surface of Mars since 2012, but as it rolls along, it sends surface data back to scientists...
Loading Comments...