Credit: Euthman

Scientists have created the first artificial human ovary with the ability to mature human eggs, outside the human body. A tremendous advancement from the test tube baby, this provides a potentially powerful means for conducting fertility research and could also offer solutions to many a cancer patient. 

The team of researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital has already been successful in an effort to mature human eggs from the organ.

An ovary is composed of three main cell types, and this is the first time that anyone has created a 3-D tissue structure with triple cell line, said Sandra Carson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Women & Infants Hospital.

With the use of the lab-made ovary, doctors and scientists will be in a position to study how healthy ovaries function, and also analyze how exposure to chemicals can disturb the process of egg maturation. It can play a major role in protecting the fertility of women taking cancer treatments, as immature eggs can be frozen before the onset of chemotherapy sessions and later matured using the artificial ovary.

The means for creating the ovary was invented in the lab of Jeffrey Morgan, associate professor of medical science and engineering.

To create the ovary, the researchers formed honeycombs of theca cells which were earlier donated by patients between the age group of 25 and 46.

After the theca cells grew into the honeycomb shape, spherical clumps of donated granulosa cells were inserted into the holes of the honeycomb together with human egg cells, known as oocytes. In a couple of days, the theca cells enveloped the granulosa and eggs, impersonating a real ovary.