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TOP ROW: Honeycomb of theca cells. BOTTOM ROW: Tissue after 48 hours and five days  (Source: Brown University)
Artificial organ is able to nurture and mature human egg cells

The first artificial human ovary has been developed by researchers at Brown University and Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, which could lead to infertility treatments for cancer patients and advancements in fertility research. 

Stephan Krotz, the study's lead author and a Houston fertility doctor; Sandra Carson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a senior author of the study; and their team have already developed/used a lab-grown ovary to mature human eggs. 

"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 Carson. 

The artificial ovary was made by forming honeycombs of theca cells, which is one of the three key types of cells in the ovary, that were donated from patients ranging from ages 25-46. When the theca cells grew into the shape of the honeycomb, human egg cells and clumps of donated granulosa cells were placed in the holes of the honeycomb. Within days, the theca cells enclosed the granulosa and human eggs, acting like a real ovary.

The ovary is made functional by bringing all three ovarian cell types together into a 3D arrangement, which is exactly what Jeffrey Morgan, associate professor of medical science and engineering and co-author of the study, was able to do using 3D Petri dishes made out of a moldable agarose gel. These dishes are made specifically to help cells gather into certain shapes. 

After much experimentation, the researchers found that the artificial ovary was able to nurture and mature eggs from the early antral follicle stage to full maturity. 

"[This] represents the first success in using 3-D tissue engineering principles for in vitro oocyte maturation," said researchers in the journal article. 

This kind of research has the potential to preserve the fertility of women about to undergo cancer treatment by freezing immature eggs and allowing them to mature outside of the person in the artificial ovary. In addition, having an artificial ovary helps researchers understand how healthy ovaries work and investigate what kinds of problems could lead to poor egg health and maturation. 

This study was published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics.



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RE: I don't know how I feel
By rs1 on 9/15/2010 1:14:02 PM , Rating: 5
If you want to take that viewpoint, then pretty much all of modern medicine goes against natural selection. I mean, technically, if you cannot survive pneumonia/smallpox/strep/whatever else without medical intervention then your genes shouldn't be carried on. That's how populations developed immunity to infectious disease prior to modern medicine. The susceptible population dies off and you're left with only the people who are naturally immune, who then go on to rebuild a population that includes their natural immunity.

We have already used our technology to bypass a myriad of conditions which have historically been extremely effective at knocking people out of the gene pool, and in that sense this new invention is really no different than hundreds of other innovations that preceded it. Does it result in a "weaker" human gene pool from a strictly Darwinian perspective? Yes. But the idea that we should shun all such technologies is ludicrous at best. If we actually applied that philosophy consistently, the vast majority of the people here would have probably died in childhood to one malady or another that modern medicine just happens to have a cure/vaccine/treatment for.


RE: I don't know how I feel
By Spivonious on 9/16/2010 10:34:30 AM , Rating: 2
Being unable to conceive children from a genetic issue (not due to radiation/chemotherapy) is a pretty strong genetic flaw, and not anything like a slight increased resistance to a particular disease.

Zardoz!


RE: I don't know how I feel
By JediJeb on 9/16/2010 6:11:37 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe this is why so many of today's future doctors, physicist, chemist, computer engineers, ect come from developing countries instead of the most modern countries. Maybe those countries have stronger gene pools because of their higher rates of infant mortality and early deaths due to not receiving massive doses of vaccines and antibiotics from childhood up. Could modern medicine actually be inhibiting human evolution or forcing it into a path that doesn't promote becoming a stronger species?

Also along the same lines, does increased rates of abortions in modern countries do the same thing by taking potentially exceptional genetic specimens out of the gene pool? This is seen all the time in the wild when over hunting of the prime breeding males as trophies causes the herds to become filled with weaker males leading to weaker overall herds.

Just some things to think about.


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