The mice gave birth to a healthy offspring and they were able to produce milk to feed their young.
The researchers hope that the results of a landmark study with 3-D printed ovaries in mice may one day evolve to be an option for women with infertility due to cancer treatments or other conditions.
“We are learning more about the basic biology of the ovary by means of this 3-D printed structures, and use this new knowledge to the next generation of the options that we’re working toward for young cancer patients,” says co-senior author Teresa Woodruff, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, according to Reuters.
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Researchers grew the ovaries on a 3-D printed structure made of organic inks in support of the ovarian follicles, and then implanted in the artificial organs in sterilized mice. Ovarian follicles are fluid-filled sacs that contain immature eggs, which Woodruff told Reuters, is a fundamental element of the ovary. The mice went on to mate, gave birth to a healthy offspring and they were able to feed their young by producing milk which signals a return to the normal levels of the hormone production.
While Woodruff researchers need to figure out how to make a number of follicles in the ovaries to mature while the other will remain unchanged, the ability to be able to provide the patients with a long-term solution that is not currently available.
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“Of course, there is a lot of work, that will be necessary, but the ability to take a shower, the function of these 3-D ovaries is a major breakthrough,” Nina Desai, director of the Cleveland Clinic In Vitro Fertilization Lab, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters. “It is really important to be able to show … that it is feasible.”
Woodruff said that if the technique is tailored for the man, for younger patients the possibility of using the normal puberty and are fertile.
“We hope that these developments will lead to more options for pediatric and adult patients with cancer in the future.”
The study is published in Nature Communications.
Reuters contributed to this report.