Tuesday, May 28, 2024

The first blueprint for building an artificial ovary

In a groundbreaking endeavor, the University of Michigan researchers have crafted a detailed cellular map of the human ovary, marking a pivotal advancement in the quest to engineer artificial ovaries. This development provides new hope for individuals whose natural ovarian function has been compromised due to aggressive medical treatments or hormonal imbalances.

Scientists at the University of Michigan have achieved a significant breakthrough by mapping the human ovary at the cellular level. This comprehensive atlas not only enhances our understanding of ovarian structure and function but also lays the groundwork for synthesizing artificial ovaries, potentially revolutionizing treatments for infertility and hormonal disorders.

The necessity for artificial ovaries arises in situations where ovarian tissue is damaged by treatments like chemotherapy or suffers from conditions affecting hormone production. While current treatments involve transplanting frozen ovarian tissue to restore function, this method often fails to support the survival of vital follicular structures. An artificial ovary would provide a more robust and long-lasting solution by facilitating follicle maturation and health.

The research focused on the ovarian cortex, where most follicles remain inactive. Understanding the triggers that lead follicles to mature and produce viable eggs could lead to enhanced artificial tissues capable of extended functionality, thereby prolonging fertility and hormonal health.

Employing spatial transcriptomics, the study delved into the gene expression of single cells, particularly targeting follicles containing oocytes. Insights into the genetic makeup of these cells are crucial for engineering functional follicles in artificial ovaries.

Professor Ariella Shikanov, the study’s lead author, emphasized the significance of this research, stating, “Most ovarian follicles, present from birth, never mature, but with our new insights, we can begin to identify what determines a successful follicle capable of leading to pregnancy.”

Looking forward, the Michigan team plans to expand their research to other parts of the female reproductive system, such as the uterus and fallopian tubes, to develop a broader reproductive atlas. This comprehensive understanding will further enhance our capability to address reproductive and hormonal health issues effectively.

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