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Scientists grew a working 'prosthetic ovary' for a mouse ' and it could be a game changer for humans

Published by Business Insider on Thu, 18 May 2017

It's common for children who go through radiation or chemotherapy to end up with damaged ovaries, incapable of supporting a healthy hormone balance or functional reproductive system.If you want to fix that problem, one approach would be to build new ovaries from scratch. Medical science is on the way to doing just that.A team of biologists, pediatricians, and engineers at Northwestern University have devised and executed a method for constructing new ovaries for mice. That's the first step toward prosthetic ovaries in humans.The follicles printed from a machine in the lab of Ramille Shah, a materials science professor at Northwestern. One thread fell across another, and soonimplanted cells started growing in the space between them. Those threads are thin strings of gelatin, joined together at precise angles by a 3D printer. All together they add up to an organicscaffold the shape of a mouse ovary.Researchers then implanted tiny oocytes taken from the mouse ' the immature seed cells of the female reproductive organ ' in the spaces between those cells. With time, those oocytes reproduced from pore to pore, filling up the empty spaces in the scaffold. A new organemerged, with engineered gelatin guiding themouse's own cellsin an act of regeneration impossible under normal circumstances.In a neighboring lab, doctor and biologist Monica Laronda worked with ateam to implant the prosthetic ovary in the original mouse (the two it was born with having been removed for the experiment). They found that by letting the mouse heal and allowing theovary to grow to maturity, themouse ended up witha fully functioning reproductive system again. When it mated with anothermouse, it gave birth.Here's a graphic detailing the process, including images of the prosthetic-ovary-born mice.Laronda and Shah published a paper detailing that process Tuesday in the journal Nature Publications.It's a big deal, and not just for the science-fiction appeal of a 3D-printed organ turning out baby mice. A successful start-to-finish mousetrial of a lab-grown mouse ovary opens the door to futureexperiments. It might be years before a similar successful prosthetic ovary is grown for a human being, but this is science marching forward in a big way.You can watch a video detailing the process here:SEE ALSO:A massive solar storm could wipe out almost all of our modern technology without warningJoin the conversation about this storyNOW WATCH: Here's what popular dog breeds looked like before and after 100 years of breeding
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