Since its inception, 3D printing technology has dramatically changed the world. From printing medical supplies, clothing material and even houses, 3D print technology is offering new and innovative solutions to address many issues.
Now, it looks like scientists have found a way to use the technology to help overcome some instances of infertility.
In research published last week in the journal Nature and Communications, scientists from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have successful used a 3D printer to create a mouse ovary capable of producing healthy offspring. “It’s really the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine,” says Teresa Woodruff, who led the research.
Using a standard 3D printer, the scientists were able to successful reconstruct a biprosthetic ovary made out of gelatin. As Live Science reports, gelatin is a form of collagen the most abundant protein in mammals. Compared to natural collagen, gelatin is more easily broken down and thus can be made into an ink that can be used in a 3D printer.
The 3D printer uses the gelatin ink in extremely precise patterns, one layer on top of another, to build complex three-dimensional structed modelled on the natural ovary. Researchers then placed real tissue from mouse follicles into the 3D printed ovary scaffolds, which contained immature eggs and the necessary hormones to allow for reproduction and normal bodily function.
It is hoped that the technology will be able to be applied to humans in the near future, particularly to those women who become sterile after a medical treatment such as cancer chemotherapy. While more research is needed to test the efficacy of the treatment on humans, it does offer some hope and continues to show the incredible scope of 3D technology.
Watch this video from Northwestern University that explains this new development