I’m always talking about 3D printing as the future of prototyping and manufacturing but what about medical 3D Printing?
Medical 3D printing begun with devices such as hearing aids and arm prosthesis. Now we count on 3D printed models for study in surgical cases and 3D printed bone replacements. Another example is the case that surgically implanted a scaffold-like tube to hold a baby’s airway open. Meaning after three years, as the baby’s airway tissue grows over and around the tube, the scaffold will dissolve harmlessly.
Advances in medical 3D printing will make possible to re construct not only human tissues but replacing entire organs in patients who need it. In fact, researches might eventually be able to achieve totally functional Bio implants (even the ones that ovulate) in a human body.
Medical 3D printing is entering the reproduction world to help women recover fertility.
At least is what a study by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering recently found after implanting 3D printed scaffolds that house immature eggs, and have been successful in boosting hormone production and restoring fertility in mice.
“The purpose of this scaffold is to recapitulate how an ovary would function. We’re thinking big picture, meaning every stage of the girl’s life, so puberty through adulthood to a natural menopause.”
Said Monica Laronda, co-lead author of this research and a former post-doctoral fellow in the Woodruff lab.
How’s this possible?
A 3D printed “scaffold” or “skeleton” is implanted into a female and its pores can be used to optimize how follicles (immature eggs) get wedged within the scaffold. Once implanted, scaffold supports the survival of the mouse’s immature egg cells and the cells that produce hormones to boost production. The open structure also allows room for the egg cells to mature and ovulate; As well as blood vessels to form within the implant enabling the hormones to circulate within the mouse bloodstream and trigger lactation after giving birth.
Sounds like a Sci-Fi Movie, right?
This is a breakthrough development for medical 3D printing and will be able to help human and other species. Bio Medical 3D Printing is an exciting technology which has been worked from both labs and hospitals.
We are conscious with the fact that Cancer is one of the most outrageous diseases affecting fertility. Women surviving Cancer after undergone treatment rise the risk of becoming sterile as a side effect; Indeed, hormone-based developmental issues can also affect those who survived childhood cancer.
To date, researchers have already successfully implanted an ovary Bio-prosthesis in laboratory mice from which a sample of 7 mice, three that underwent the procedure managed to give healthy pups and even had the opportunity to also breastfeed them.
“Using bioengineering, instead of transplanting from a cadaver, to create organ structures that function and restore the health of that tissue for that person, is the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine”.
Said in a statement co-author Teresa Woodruff, a reproductive scientist and director of the Women’s Health Research Institute at Feinberg.
This is a breakthrough within this group of researchers and is likely to one day achieve the same results in humans.
Is it possible to achieve this procedure in women any time soon?
Most of us are agree that the human body is extremely complex. So I still do not see any close they achieve this particular procedure in women; Even if they have succeeded in making the experiment work with laboratory mice. However, it would be fantastic news for women patients hoping to have a child within the next 5-10 years.
3D printing can be used to address all of these future implant requirements.
The next step in the experiment is to test the fertilization method on larger animals. After all, we must remember that although the project has been successful with laboratory mice, there is still no guarantee that it will work with humans in a near future. Specifically when translating this work to a large animal or human, the implant must house a significantly larger population of follicles; Therefore must be considerably larger than those used in mice. On the other hand, we should never underestimate science progress. It might appear slow but is always in motion, meaning it is only a matter of time for a woman to have an implant of ovaries. Eventually letting her to get pregnant as it was with the mice.
Medical 3D printing may still like something from a sci-fi novel, but its practical uses are very promising. These kind of news are the ones that remind me of how wonderful science is.
The findings of this research group were published in the journal Nature Communications. You can check the complete article for more information.
Also published on Medium.