In this report, we investigate the fibrin-alginate interpenetrating network (FA-IPN) to provide dynamic cell-responsive mechanical properties, which we apply to the in vitro growth of ovarian follicles. The mechanical properties and polymerization rate of the gels were investigated by rheology, and the fiber structure was imaged by electron microscopy. Using a mouse model, two-layered secondary follicles were encapsulated in FA-IPNs, and growth, morphology, hormone production, fibrin degradation rate and the numbers of competent eggs were assessed. The initial mechanics of the FA-IPN are determined by the composite material, and subsequent degradation of fibrin by the encapsulated cells would produce a material with mechanical properties due to the alginate alone. The rate of meiotically competent oocytes produced by culture in FA-IPN was 82%, which was significantly greater than in alginate alone. This increase in oocyte quality is an important step in identifying 3D culture systems that can provide a fundamental tool to investigate follicle maturation, and may be applied to promote the growth of human follicles, which can be used to provide reproductive options for women facing a cancer diagnosis.
Ariella Shikanov, Min Xu, Teresa K. Woodruff, Lonnie D. Shea; Biomaterials Vol. 29 5476-85 Oct 30, 2009