Preserving Future Fertility: The Artificial Ovary

September 24, 2010
Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP

Researchers at Brown University have built an artificial human ovary that can grow oocytes into mature human eggs in the laboratory.

My colleagues at Brown have been involved in some amazing research and I wanted to take time to alert you to it. Dr. Sandra Carson is a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and one whom I have the privilege of working with in the arena of sexual health. She has undertaken an interdisciplinary project of incredible importance for women with cancer: the building of an artificial human ovary, and this work has just been published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics. In this work, Dr. Carson has successfully created a 3-D structure that brings the three cell types found in the human ovary in contact, just like it does in the female body. It uses a "3-D petri dish" which was also developed here at Brown in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Morgan. The work published shows that this artificial structure succeeds in ways that the normal ovary functions—by enabling eggs to mature fully.

In addition to its potential implications for fertility sparing in women with cancer, this feat can also help in pharmaceutical research as we seek to understand the effect of drugs on ovarian development and the role of novel compounds in the treatment of infertility. Congratulations to Sandy and her team, including my colleague in Oncology, Dr. Richard Moore. For more details, see this press announcement from Brown University.