Grow a Pair... of Ovaries

September 17, 2010

Rheanna Sand

Science in Seconds Blog by Rheanna Sand

In the past few years, medical innovations like artificial sperm and lab-grown penises have created no shortage of jokes about men becoming obsolete. But now women can feel just as useless: researchers from Brown University have made, for the first time, artificial ovaries.

Stephan Krotz and associates in Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility collaborated with scientists from Physiology & Biotechnology to create what they affectionately call a "3-dimensional Petri dish" - one that grew a tiny honeycomb of cells capable of maturing human eggs.

Like other tissue engineers, they started with a non-cellular scaffold that replicates the true architecture of the organ. In some cases, organs are treated with a solution that dissolves the cells and leaves the natural scaffold behind. In this case, however, the scaffold was built artificially by 3D printing a wax mold. This mold was used to create another mold made of polydimethylsiloxane, which was used to cast an agarose gel with honeycomb-shaped wells.

The tiny gels were then seeded with donated theca cells, one of two main cell types of the ovary. They envelop granulosa cells, which surround the oocyte. After the seeded theca cells multiplied and assumed the honeycomb shape, they were removed from the gel and clumps of granulosa cells and oocytes were added to the holes. After a few days, the theca cells enveloped the clumps, mimicking a natural ovary. Eventually the oocytes matured fully.


This elegant technique will be extremely useful in research on ovarian diseases, and has many advantages over traditional cell culture methods.


As for women becoming obsolete - well, the system still requires real females to donate cells, so no worries, ladies. Our dignity is safe. Now would somebody please tell Snooki?



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