For women today, the decision to have children is one that can wait a little longer, thanks to a general societal shift in attitudes, as well as services like boutique fertility clinics for millennials. But for many others, infertility can take some of the decision-making power away from women. Even as celebs like Chrissy Teigen open up about their own difficulties conceiving, it remains an incredibly difficult and sensitive topic.
But just as options expand for those who can have kids, progress is being made for those who struggle with infertility as well. Recently, scientists at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago reported that a mouse was able to give birth to healthy babies thanks to eggs generated in 3D-printed ovaries. Let that sink in for a sec.
The Northwestern scientists first removed the female mouse’s ovaries. They then replaced it with a “scaffold” of an ovary that they made with 3D technology. The 3D-printed ovaries were built with a form of gelatin, which is strong enough to survive a transplant but also porous enough to work with the mouse’s existing tissues, according to CBS News. The implanted ovary then ovulated, and the mouse was able to give birth to the babies that were conceived. Mind. Blown.
“These bioprosthetic ovaries have long-term, durable function,” researcher Teresa Woodruff told CBS, explaining that this technology could help restore fertility to women who have lost healthy ovary functions, perhaps due to cancer or cancer treatment where the loss of these functions can happen.
“We’re thinking big picture,” co-researcher Monica Laronda said to CBS about their ambitions for the technology. “Meaning every stage of the girl’s life, so puberty through adulthood to a natural menopause.”
The application of this technology is in the early stages of experimentation and hasn’t been proven on human patients yet. Even while women’s reproductive rights — including IVF and other fertility treatments — remain in jeopardy under President Trump’s administration, progress of this sort is as inspiring as it is mind-blowing.
Have you or someone you know struggled with infertility, and if so, what do you think of this technology? Let us know @BritandCo.
(Photos via Northwestern University + Getty)