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3-D printed ovaries could help women conceive naturally

WBMA

In the not-so-distant future, women who have had their ovaries or portions of them removed and frozen, could possibly conceive naturally.

Doctor Wright Bates, Director of Reproductive Endocrinology at UAB says it sounds far out, but it's a reality of modern technology.

"When I first graduated from UAB med school 26 years ago, I mean this wasn't even on the radar; this was science fiction," Dr. Bates said.

He says scientists are replacing existing ovaries in mice, using 3-D printing to create artificial structures to serve as new ovaries and taking what are called follicles, or the encasing of the egg, and attaching it to the new artificial ovaries.

- Which were "then implanted them into mice, who were able to achieve offspring or successfully get pregnant through natural mating or intercourse," Dr. Bates said.

This is very preliminary, but, if this technology is able to be used in humans, the implications for women with fertility issues, or those who know they will have issues in the future, are very exciting.

One of them, is the elimination of the need for in-vitro fertilization in many cases.

"The downside of that is it requires quite a bit of technology, it's expensive and the woman goes through quite a lot emotionally physically and financially to get pregnant," Dr. Bates said.

Instead, the patient can get pregnant in a more natural way.

"They could get pregnant on their own," Bates said.

Another positive - "There's the potential with this technology that those ovarian follicles could make hormones and avoid some of the negative effects of menopause, which can really impact quality of life for a lot of women.

There's still a lot of research to be done, but if this works, millions of lives could be changed - and new ones started.

Bates says if everything goes well with the testing, we could see this being used in humans sometime in the next five to ten years.

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