May 17, 2017 | By Tess

A team of researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the McCormick School of Engineering has successfully implanted 3D bioprinted prosthetic ovaries into a number of infertile mice. Amazingly, the mice who received the bioprinted implants have now given birth to healthy litters.

The study, which was recently published in the journal Nature Communications, marks a breakthrough for fertility research, as the researchers believe their process could one day help women whose fertility has been affected by cancer treatments to give birth.

To make the prosthetic ovaries, the researchers used a 3D bioprinting method to build up porous scaffolds from a liquid gelatin ink (a biocompatible hydrogel made from broken down collagen).

Once printed, the scaffolds were then filled with ovarian follicles. For those not overly familiar with reproductive anatomies, ovarian follicles are the fluid-filled sacs that each contain an oocyte, or immature egg. The structure and porosity of the printed scaffold not only house the follicles, but also allow for them to grow and for the host’s blood vessels to infiltrate the implant.

A macroscopic view of the five-layered scaffold 3D printed using a 100 μm nozzle

To test the 3D bioprinted ovary implants, the research team implanted a number of them into mice whose ovaries had been surgically removed, making them infertile. Within a week of the implantation, the prosthetic ovaries were already being integrated into the bodies of the mice, and the follicles started to mature and eventually ovulate.

After mating naturally, three of the seven mice implanted with the 3D printed ovaries actually gave birth to pups (at least two each). Once born, the pups were reportedly healthy and were able to feed from their mother’s milk.

Follicles in the 3D bioprinted scaffold structure

“Our hope is that one day this ovarian bioprosthesis is really the ovary of the future,” commented Teresa Woodruff, from Northwestern University in Chicago. “The goal of the project is to be able to restore fertility and endocrine health to young cancer patients who have been sterilized by their cancer treatment.”

Indeed, many women who undergo cancer treatments can see their fertility affected, as chemotherapy has been known to trigger sterility and early menopause, and other treatments can cause damage to the eggs. And while a number of other fertility preservation methods are being explored, Northwestern’s bioprinted ovaries could be a promising approach.

After the success of the mice ovary implants, the research team is now working on scaling up the project, to make bigger scaffolds to be tested on larger animals and, hopefully one day, humans.

One researcher, Ramille Shah, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at McCormick School of Engineering, told the press that she hoped a bioprinted ovary prosthetic for humans would be implanted within the next five years. Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done on that front.

The full research paper, entitled “A bioprosthetic ovary created using 3D printed microporous scaffolds restores ovarian function in sterilized mice,” can be found here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Atanas G. Atanasov wrote at 5/18/2017 9:50:38 AM:

Very interesting study… I have featured it in my new post on Health and Science Portal:

Anonymous wrote at 5/17/2017 7:20:07 PM:

Can we please be more careful about the terms used? The term "bioprinted" is not used in the published research article (except in the titles of the references), probably because the researchers did not consider this bioprinting. Many would not consider this bioprinting because it does not involve the deposition of cells by the 3D printer. This is a 3D printed scaffold.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now six years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive