Northwestern researchers develop key to artificial ovaries


File photo Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Northwestern University arch. Northwestern researchers discovered a link to developing an artificial human ovary.

Yunkyo Kim, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern researchers may be one step closer to creating 3D-printed artificial ovaries, a discovery that may help the approximately 6.1 million American women between ages 15 and 44 who struggle to conceive.

Monica Laronda, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Feinberg School of Medicine and a medical director at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and her team found similarities in structural proteins found in pigs’ ovaries, which can then be used to develop an ink to print artificial ovaries for humans.

“We are one step closer to restoring fertility and hormone production in young women who survive childhood cancer but enter early menopause as a late effect,” Laronda said to Science Daily. “There are still several steps to go and we are excited to test our new inks.”

The team’s experiment tested artificial ovaries on mice, which yielded successful pregnancies with live offsprings, according to the journal article Nature Communications.

Their research also compared structural proteins found in pig ovaries and humans. This makes swines the best candidates for further development. These proteins could be a source for bio-ink for 3D-printing human ovaries.

Laronda’s team received a patent in late 2019, and they’re working to develop the technology for human use. Furthermore, the process of protein mapping can be applied to other organs of research interest.

“We have developed a pipeline for identifying and mapping scaffold proteins at the organ level,” Laronda said to Science Daily. “It is the first time that this has been accomplished and we hope it will spur further research into the microenvironment of other organs.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @yunkyomoonk