Researchers have created a 3-D model of the female reproductive system that uses living tissue — interconnected by tubes carrying fake blood — to simulate a woman’s full menstrual cycle. Led by Dr. Teresa Woodruff, the director of Women’s Health Research Institute at Northwestern University, a team of researchers used human and mouse tissue to create Evatar, a model that can be used to simulate how drugs affect women’s reproductive organs during their hormonal cycle — and potentially even pave the way to personalized treatments for painful periods, infertility and other conditions.
“If I had your stem cells and created a heart, liver, lung, and an ovary, I could test 10 different drugs at 10 different doses on you and say, ‘Here’s the drug that will help your Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or diabetes,’” said Dr. Woodruff in a report published on the Northwestern University website. “It’s the ultimate personalized medicine, a model of your body for testing drugs.”
To create Evatar, researchers grew fallopian tubes, a uterus, and a cervix out of human tissue and ovaries from mouse tissue, cultivating the miniature organs in separate cube compartments connected within a square frame. By connecting the corresponding tissues with tubes carrying a fluid simulating blood, the organ models are able to signal each other just as they would in the human body, using secretions such as hormones, growth and immune factors. This means that when the ovarian cycle is stimulated, all the tissues in the system respond, undergoing a full 28-day menstrual cycle. In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Woodruff said that the system could even be induced to secrete pregnancy hormones.
Using the model to test how the reproductive system responds to drugs, researchers said, could aid efforts to combat conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, cancer, and infertility.
“All of these diseases are hormonally driven, and we really don’t know how to treat them except for surgery,” explained Joanna E. Burdette, a researcher with the University of Illinois. “The systems are tremendous for the study of cancer, which often is studied as isolated cells rather than systemwide cells. This is going to change the way we study cancer.”
In the interview, Dr. Woodruff described the model as “the mother of all micro-humans.” The name of the model, she added, was a combination of the word ‘avatar’ with the name ‘Eve.’
Watch video of Evatar below.
Read the full story at The New York Times.