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Bioengineering the ovarian follicle microenvironment

Lonnie D. Shea,1,2,3,4,5,7 Teresa K. Woodruff,4,5,6,7 and Ariella Shikanov8,9

Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2014 Jul 11;16:29-52.

1Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering,
2Department of Biomedical Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering;
3Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine (IBNAM);
4Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center;
5Chemistry of Life Processes Institute (CLP);
6Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Feinberg School of Medicine;
7Center for Reproductive Science (CRS); Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208; email: ,
Departments of 8Biomedical Engineering and
9Macromolecular Science and Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109; email:




Chemo- and radiation therapies used to treat cancer can have the unintended effect of making patients infertile. Clinically established fertility preservation methods, such as egg and embryo cryopreservation, are not applicable to all patients, which has motivated the development of strategies that involve ovarian tissue removal and cryopreservation before the first sterilizing treatment. To restore fertility at a later date, the early-stage follicles present in the tissue must be matured to produce functional oocytes, a process that is not possible using existing cell culture technologies. This review describes the application of tissue engineering principles to promote ovarian follicle maturation and produce mature oocytes through either in vitro culture or transplantation. The design principles for these engineered systems are presented, along with identification of emerging opportunities in reproductive biology.

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Bioengineering the ovarian follicle microenvironment