World's First Artificial Ovary Has Now Been Created
04 Oct, 2010 - 09:58am
Women undergoing chemotherapy are always at stake of becoming infertile. However, a ground breaking research has made a successful attempt in creating a three dimensional artificial ovary that could prove to be very helpful for such women. The attempt was made by the researchers from the Women and Infants’ Hospital, Brown University, Rhode Island in United States. The research has been published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics. Ovaries are a part of the female reproductive system and the site where oocytes or the immature eggs mature. The maturation of an oocyte happens inside the ovarian follicles. These ovarian follicles are made up of three important types of cells namely oocyte, granulosa and theca. The immature eggs undergo several transformations before developing into a fully mature egg. After maturation the egg is released by the ovary for fertilization. The scientists had a challenge to replicate this exact structure of ovary outside the body that could be used to mature eggs collected from the donors.
Presently women, who want to have a baby after chemotherapy, freeze their eggs for later use. These mature eggs can be fertilized in vitro or outside the body, technically known as in vitro fertilization or IVF. But this technique requires a lot of time and a number of attempts before good quality mature eggs can be collected and frozen. Most of the women about to undergo chemotherapy don’t have the time to go through the process if it fails in the first try. If the artificial ovary could mature the oocytes outside the body it would prove to be a blessing for such women. It might also increase their chances of pregnancy with a better number of healthy eggs.
The researchers collected theca cells and granulosa cells from the eggs donated by women between the age of 25 and 46 and grew the theca cells into a honeycomb shaped structure. After this, spherical clusters of granulosa cells were inserted into the holes of the honeycomb together with immature human egg cells or oocytes. In a few days, the cells enveloped the immature eggs and were able to grow to full maturity. This research showed that the structural cells from the donated ovaries were capable of arranging themselves into “complex cell spheres” and maturing in a similar fashion as in the process of natural maturation. They remained viable for one week.
The researchers thus concluded that it is possible to create an artificial human ovary and use it for in vitro maturation. Furthermore, the artificial ovary can also be used to study the functions of ovarian cells, how they become cancerous or how toxins affect the development of the egg.
The current research is truly a revolutionary one in addressing the infertility problems in women. But there are still some important challenges to overcome before they can actually be put to use to help women conceive after chemotherapy.
Nonetheless, it looks all positive and has great potential to solve some of the problems related to infertility. It might also spare women from injecting drugs multiple times for days in advance to collect a mature egg. It spells definite hope for many women.