Int. J. Dev. Biol. 59: 211 - 216 (2015)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.150172mz
© UPV/EHU Press

3D culture of ovarian follicles: a system towards their engineering?

Maurizio Zuccotti*,1, Valeria Merico2, Paola Rebuzzini2, Martina Belli2, Giulia Vigone2, Francesca Mulas3, Lorenzo Fassina3,4, Wasco Wruck5, James Adjaye5,6, Riccardo Bellazzi3 and Silvia Garagna*,2,4

1Sezione di Anatomia, Istologia ed Embriologia, Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Biotecnologiche e Traslazionali (S.Bi.Bi.T.), Università degli Studi di Parma, Italy, 2Laboratorio di Biologia dello Sviluppo, Dipartimento di Biologia e Biotecnologie 'Lazzaro Spallanzani', Università degli Studi di Pavia, Italy, 3Dipartimento di Ingegneria Industriale e dell’Informazione, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Pavia, Italy, 4Centro di Ingegneria Tissutale, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Italy, 5Institute for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine, Medical Faculty, Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany and 6Molecular Embryology and Aging Group, Department of Vertebrate Genomics. Max-Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany.

ABSTRACT Infertility in women is a health priority. Designing a robust culture protocol capable of attaining complete follicle growth is an exciting challenge, for its potential clinical applications, but also as a model to observe and closely study the sequence of molecular events that lie behind the intricate relationship existing between the oocyte and surrounding follicle cells. Here, we describe the procedures used to maintain the ovarian follicle 3D architecture employing a variety of in vitro systems and several types of matrices. Collagen and alginate are the matrices that led to better results, including proof-of-concept of full-term development. Pioneer in its kind, these studies underlie the drawbacks encountered and the need for a culture system that allows more quantitative analyses and predictions, projecting the culture of the ovarian follicle into the realm of tissue engineering.


Ovarian follicle, 3D culture, matrix, collagen, alginate, tissue engineering

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