Thanks to 3-D printing, we're getting closer to a host of artificial organs — from kidneys and ears to whole hands. Now, scientists hope 3-D printing will help restore fertility.
Researchers at Northwestern University developed 3-D printed ovaries using gelatin, a material strong enough to hold immature eggs but flexible and porous enough to allow for ovulation and for blood vessels to form.
When they implanted the ovaries into infertile mice, the mice were not only able to ovulate, but also gave birth to healthy pups. They were even able to nurse them.
The scientists say the main goal for developing the ovaries was to help restore fertility in women and younger girls sterilized by cancer treatments.
"We've never had a way to provide back the fertility," said Dr. Teresa K. Woodruff, director of the Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern University. "[Now] they're going to have endocrine function, endocrine hormones like estrogen and progesterone, and they're going to be able to have their own children one day."
Although the ovaries worked in mice, more research is needed before the team tests them in humans.