Shikanov A., Xu M., Woodruff T.K., Shea L.D. (). A Method for Ovarian Follicle Encapsulation and Culture in a Proteolytically Degradable 3 Dimensional System. JoVE. http://www.jove.com/details.php?id=2695&access=ugoti9et
The ovarian follicle is the functional unit of the ovary that secretes sex hormones and supports oocyte maturation. in vitro follicle techniques provide a tool to model follicle development in order to investigate basic biology, and are further being developed as a technique to preserve fertility in the clinic1-4. Our in vitro culture system employs hydrogels in order to mimic the native ovarian environment by maintaining the 3D follicular architecture, cell-cell interactions and paracrine signaling that direct follicle development 5. Previously, follicles were successfully cultured in alginate, an inert algae-derived polysaccharide that undergoes gelation with calcium ions6-8. Alginate hydrogels formed at a concentration of 0.25% w/v were the most permissive for follicle culture, and retained the highest developmental competence 9. Alginate hydrogels are not degradable, thus an increase in the follicle diameter results in a compressive force on the follicle that can impact follicle growth10. We subsequently developed a culture system based on a fibrin-alginate interpenetrating network (FA-IPN), in which a mixture of fibrin and alginate are gelled simultaneously. This combination provides a dynamic mechanical environment because both components contribute to matrix rigidity initially; however, proteases secreted by the growing follicle degrade fibrin in the matrix leaving only alginate to provide support. With the IPN, the alginate content can be reduced below 0.25%, which is not possible with alginate alone 5. Thus, as the follicle expands, it will experience a reduced compressive force due to the reduced solids content. Herein, we describe an encapsulation method and an in vitro culture system for ovarian follicles within a FA-IPN. The dynamic mechanical environment mimics the natural ovarian environment in which small follicles reside in a rigid cortex and move to a more permissive medulla as they increase in size11. The degradable component may be particularly critical for clinical translation in order to support the greater than 106-fold increase in volume that human follicles normally undergo in vivo .