First atlas of the human ovary: a step toward the artificial ovary

Published by Cédric - 27 days ago - Other Languages: FR, DE, ES, PT
Article author: Cédric DEPOND
Source: Science Advances

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan has led to the creation of the first "atlas" of the human ovary. This detailed mapping of the different cells that make up the ovary paves the way for treatments aimed at restoring the production of ovarian hormones and the ability to have biologically related children. The findings of this research, published in the journal Science Advances, could also open the door to the development of artificial ovaries.

Currently, surgeons can temporarily restore the production of hormones and eggs by implanting previously frozen ovarian tissue. However, this method has limitations because few follicles, responsible for hormone production and egg transport, survive the reimplantation.

The new atlas reveals factors that allow a follicle to mature, thus offering the possibility of creating artificial ovaries in the lab from tissues preserved before exposure to toxic medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Focusing on ovarian follicles carrying immature egg precursors, called oocytes, the research team identified the genes necessary for their development. Associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan, Ariella Shikanov, explains: "Now that we know which genes are expressed in the oocytes, we can test whether altering these genes could lead to the creation of a functional follicle."

The team used a relatively new technology called spatial transcriptomics to map genetic activity in ovarian tissue samples from five donors. This approach made it possible to identify active genes and understand the mechanisms leading to follicle maturation.

The results of this research offer an encouraging perspective for the creation of functional artificial ovaries that can be transplanted into the body to restore fertility in women who have undergone aggressive medical treatments.

This advancement was made possible through the Human Cell Atlas project, which aims to create detailed cellular maps to understand the functioning of the human body and its associated dysfunctions. Future work of the team will include mapping other parts of the female reproductive system, thus opening new perspectives in the field of fertility and regenerative medicine.
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