3D Printing and Its Biological Impacts
There is no doubt that 3D Printing has some amazing potential. We can use it to build new homes (on Mars) and even 3D print cheese – American cheese it has to be said, so I am not sure what the French would say, but still, we can 3D Print cheese.
3D Print Ovaries for Mice
However, this week the news around the topic of 3D Printing was dominated by scientists who have been able to 3D print ovaries for mice who had had their own removed. So successful was the project, that the mice ovulated and indeed produced healthy mice pups.
It is no surprise that the news was awash with these stories given the significance of this finding as you can see from the image above.
Interestingly, however, this was not the first biosynthetic ovary, but it was the first to be built using a gelatin scaffolding which was said to be key to the success of the experiment. Gelatin, made from broken-down collagen, is rigid enough to be manipulated during surgery, but porous enough to allow it to properly interact with the mouse’s biology.
Snagging Points and Developments
Previous efforts used gel substances to encapsulate egg cells, but they were, unfortunately, prone to breaking down and collapsing upon themselves. The scaffolding provided a much more stable environment that gave the follicles a higher rate of survival.
Another aspect that they deemed critical was the temperature of the 3D Print itself, which I find particularly interesting:
“…we found a gelatin temperature that allows it to be self-supporting, not collapse, and lead to building multiple layers. No one else has been able to print gelatin with such well-defined and self-supported geometry.”
Whilst it has no doubt taken decades to get to this point, it will no doubt take further time to consider this on humans but still, this is a huge proof of concept and one that will no doubt be discussed for years to come. Not just because of the technology but because of the ethics of the whole situation.
To summarise, consider the power of the statement made by co-author Teresa Woodruff, a reproductive scientist and director of the Women’s Health Research Institute at Feinberg, who stated:
“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,”
You can read the whole statement here.