Oocytes grown in vitro are of low quality and yield few live births, thus limiting the ability to store or bank the ova of women wishing to preserve their fertility. We applied tissue engineering principles to the culture of immature mouse follicles by designing an alginate hydrogel matrix to maintain the oocyte's 3- dimensional (3D) architecture and cell-cell interactions in vitro. A 3D culture mimics the in vivo follicle environment, and hydrogel-encapsulated follicles develop mature oocytes within the capacity for fertilization similar to that of oocytes matured in vivo. Embryos derived from cultured oocytes fertilized in vitro and transferred to pseudopregnant female mice were viable, and both male and female offspring were fertile. Our results demonstrate that alginate hydrogel-based 3D in vitro culture of follicles permits normal growth and development of follicles and oocytes. This system creates new opportunities for discovery in follicle biology and establishes a core technology for human egg banks for preservation of fertility.
Min Xu, Pamela K. Kreeger, Lonnie D. Shea, and Teresa K. Woodruff; Tissue Engineering Vol 10 2739-46 Oct 13 2006