By Ila Ananya
You know how first three-dimensional printing was all the rage, and then everyone suddenly started talking about 3D organs? Did you ever think it could even help women who’ve had cancer get pregnant if they want to?
It’s true. Two researchers, Teresa Woodruff, and Ramille Shah, from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine have managed to use 3D printers to come up with a scaffold, which has the potential to restore fertility in women who’ve survived cancer.
Cancer treatments are known to usually impact ovarian function and hence women’s fertility, and this new development can help restore hormone production in those who’ve had cancer as adults, or as children. It’s usually chemotherapy or radiation treatments that makes young women incapable of getting pregnant. The risky thing to do in this case would be for doctors to save parts of the woman’s ovarian tissue to re-implant them later—it’s a risk because there is the possibility that the tissue could contain the cancer they’d survived. 3D printing would bypass all these risks.
So it’s a huge huge step forward. The study was done on mice, and could potentially be replicated in women (though this may take a while but research is on in full swing) after studies are done on other animals. Essentially, Woodruff and Shah found that the bioprosthetic ovaries that were constructed of the 3D printed scaffolds (which have eggs) could restore fertility. It’s different from other 3D printing structures, because the scaffold or “ink” used is different from what’s usually used — this time they used gelatin, which safe to use in human beings. And how was all of this done? The structure itself had to be carefully engineered, with a geometry that exactly matched the biological ovary.
While it might seem like there’s a distance to go before it’s implemented in human beings, this is undoubtedly a huge step forward.