Infertility In Mice Solved By 3D Printing

First Posted: May 17, 2017 05:20 AM EDT

A large percentage of the world's female population want to become mothers. However, not every one of them has the opportunity to be one. The rise of cancer and genetic diseases can render ovaries useless as far as reproduction is concerned.

However, a team of bioengineers reported a way to possibly change this -- by printing working 3D ovaries. In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers were able to replace infertile mice ovaries with working 3D-printed versions. While the procedure worked in mice so far, more research can help this become a possibility for humans as well.

According to Wired, Teresa Woodruff, a reproductive scientist at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and co-author of the study, said that they are planning on using ovarian tissues as ink. While it is possible to squirt such tissues out of a printer, they will have to be done in exactly the right conditions. Too hot printers could cause the ovarian structure to sag, while too cold printers could cause it to clump. The ideal temperature is set to be around 30 degrees Celsius.

While the printing temperature has been solved by biomedical engineer Alexandra Rutz, the team's next problem is figuring out the best pattern to deposit the gelatinous tissue. It will have to form a lattice structure similar to the collagen found in real ovaries. Various mesh patterns will have to be seeded in vitro, until they find the right vessels and tissues necessary to keep the eggs alive.

CNN reported that so far, the research passed the functional test in mice. However, it is difficult to estimate when these technologies could be available for humans. Researchers are hoping for a full functional ovary replacement within five years, but at this point, it may be unlikely. More studies will have to be done for this procedure to be effective in solving female infertility problems.

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