Artificial ovary breakthrough

lab tubes

Researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital have created the first artificial ovary which has already been used to mature human eggs. Not only can it be used for research but also potentially to treat infertility and enhance some aspects of artificial reproductive technologies.

Sandra Carson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Women & Infants Hospital as well as the lead author of the research article explained that this ovary is a living laboratory for exploring how ovaries work and can act as a stand in for experiments which require hazardous exposures like to toxins or other chemicals. No ovaries have to sacrificed for such important research.

For women facing chemotherapy and the likelihood of infertility, this artificial ovary could play a part in preserving their ability to procreate. Immature eggs could be harvested and cryopreserved before cancer treatment, then matured in the artificial ovary prior to fertilization and implantation.

How did they do it? What makes this artificial ovary functional is that it combines the three different types of cells together into a three dimensional arrangement just like real ovaries. The process for doing this was invented by Jeffrey Morgan, associate professor of medical science an engineering who co-authored the research. He has created a 3-D Petri dish made of a moldable gel that provides a template encouraging the cells to take a specific shape - in this case, like the ovary. Once they had the organ, they needed to see if it would function. And it did. They have been able to grow eggs from follicle stage to full maturity.

Carson says her intention was not to create an ovary, but to create an environment where egg development could be studied. She and Morgan came together and the results exceeded their expectations. “This is really very, very new” she said.

With the first fully formed functional artificial organ now created and the 3-D Petri dish proven as a mold for making functional tissues, it’s hard to say where else this research may lead.

Source: Brown University, ScienceDaily


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