In women who are at risk for infertility and needing cancer therapy, it was difficult to attain follicular maturation in vitro when immature follicles were removed from their normal environment.
But a group of researchers at the Northwestern University have created a new technology (i.e.) a three-dimensional culture system that encloses follicles, allowed normal follicular maturation in vitro and helped maintain a normal connection between follicle and egg leading to birth of a live mice.
The results are published online this month by the journal Tissue Engineering.
The study shows that follicles grown individually in a three-dimensional biomaterial called alginate maintain normal connections between follicle and egg, resulting in the development of eggs, which can be fertilized and ultimately lead to healthy embryos and the birth of live mice. Previously developed methods of growing follicles or eggs outside of the body do not provide the three-dimensional support to maintain the follicle structure in which the egg must grow.
'While the research is in its early stages, this work has implications for the preservation of fertility for women and girls with cancer,' said Teresa K. Woodruff, Professor of Neurobiology and Physiology who led the study together with Lonnie D. Shea, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering. 'This system establishes a core technology for human egg banks for preservation of fertility.'
The technology mimics the ovary and its environment. Follicles (each follicle has one egg) from mice were grown in vitro until fully matured by providing the follicles and eggs with the necessary hormones for development while maintaining their normal architecture. The eggs were then used for in vitro fertilization. The fertilized eggs were implanted into a foster mother that was of a different strain than the donor egg and sperm, resulting in babies with a different coat color, proving that the births were the result of the cultured embyros. Both male and female offspring were fertile.