Tuesday, 21 September, 2010
The breakthrough could help preserve fertility for women having chemotherapy or other invasive treatments.
Using a honeycomb-shaped cell structure, US researchers placed human egg cells into the individual pods. Within a couple of days, the cells enveloped the eggs, mimicking a real ovary.
The 3D tissue structure was a first, said Sandra Carson, who led the team at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Rhode Island.
‘This is really very, very new and is the first success in using 3D tissue engineering principles for in vitro oocyte maturation,’ she said.
The scientists believe the structure could answer fundamental questions about how healthy ovaries work but could also act as a testbed for seeing how problems can disrupt egg maturation and health. They also say the artificial ovary could play a role in preserving the fertility of women facing cancer treatment in the future.
Immature eggs could be salvaged and frozen before the onset of chemotherapy or radiation and then matured outside the patient in the artificial ovary.
Meanwhile, in another fertility breakthrough, stem cells have been used to cure faulty ovaries.
About one in 100 women under the age of 40 suffer premature ovary failure ahead of the menopause.
Egyptian researchers repaired faulty ovaries in rats using stem cells.
‘We have not yet reached the stage of producing offspring, and so we will need to understand if the baby rats will be genetically related to the mother, or to the donor of the stem cells,’ said Prof Osama Azmy of Cairo’s National Research Centre.