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New technique could save cancer patients' fertility
Date:7/13/2009

able for women who could not safely have an ovarian transplant.

The new Northwestern findings build on earlier research by the scientists, who grew mouse follicles in a culture, induced the eggs they contained to mature, fertilized them with mouse sperm and implanted them into female mice to establish pregnancy. The technique produced healthy, fertile generations of mice.

Woodruff, working with Lonnie Shea, professor of chemical and biological engineering at McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, achieved the new advance by suspending the human ovarian follicle in two different kinds of three-dimensional gels. Previous attempts to grow ovarian follicles had been on a flat surface, which the researchers now believe does not replicate conditions inside the body. These earlier attempts failed to develop good quality eggs that were healthy enough for fertilization.

Woodruff said the research also is significant because it is the first time scientists have been able to isolate and study a functioning individual human ovarian follicle.

"Because you don't take an ovary out of young women, we've never before been able to look inside the follicle of the human and ask how does it work, how do hormones change, how does the estrogen change in the follicle?" explained Woodruff, who also is the Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "We never knew how an individual follicle regulated these hormones. This paper for the first time shows these individual hormones being regulated by one growing follicle."

The discovery, Woodruff said, will enable researchers to understand how nurse cells (granulosa cells), the cells that support and surround the maturing egg, communicate with the egg. "They provide a lot of information that the egg needs to grow and develop properly," Woodruff said. "It's a big priority for us to understand how the nurse cells talk to the egg." The information, she said, will help scienti
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Contact: Marla Paul
Marla-Paul@northwestern.edu
312-503-8928
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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