On May 16, the scientific journal Nature published the results of a research conducted by two American institutes: the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the McCormick School of Engineering. They created a “bioprosthetic” ovary with 3D-printed gelatin scaffolding. 

The first step involved a 3D-printer with a nozzle that fired gelatin to form porous scaffolding, creating a crosslinked matrix format where ovarian follicles could develop.  See video.

The second step was to implant these synthetic ovaries with mouse follicles at different stages of their development. The team then surgically removed the real ovaries from seven mice and sutured the prosthetic ovaries in their place. The blood vessels from each mouse infiltrated the scaffolds, thus the ovaries were rapidly functional since vasculature and stimulation of hormone production was restored, as well as ovulation. The researchers allowed the mice to mate and three of the females gave birth to healthy litters. They were even able to nurse their pups since the lab-created ovaries triggered lactation. In turn, the mice from these litters were also able to conceive and give birth.

The end goal is to create bioprosthetic ovaries that can be used by women rendered infertile from diseases like cancer or their medical treatments.