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Continuing with the theme of 3D printing, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering has reported a remarkable feat; a functioning 3D printed ovary.

After removing a female mouse’s ovary, they replaced it with a bioprosthetic one. The mice were not only able to ovulate with the bioprosthetic, but could also give birth to healthy pups, and subsequently nurse their young, ScienceDaily reports. The bioprosthetic ovaries were constructed from 3-D printed scaffolds that house immature eggs, and were successful in boosting hormone production, fulfilling the goal of the research which was to restore fertility in mice.

The research was published in Nature Communications in May of this year. Teresa K. Woodruff, a reproductive scientist and director of the Women’s Health Research Institute at Feinberg, said that the use of bioengineering instead of a transplant from a cadaver could be “the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine.”

The architecture of this particular scaffold and the material, or “ink,” are unique; the material is gelatin, a biological hydrogel that is safe to use in humans. To date, no one else has successfully printed gelatin with such well-defined and self-supported geometry, the team have claimed.

This could be a game changer for cancer patients, as their ovaries don’t function at a high enough level and hormone replacement therapies are needed to trigger puberty.