A method for ovarian follicle encapsulation and culture in a proteolytically degradable 3 dimensional system.


The ovarian follicle is the functional unit of the ovary that secretes sex hormones and supports oocyte maturation. In vitro follicle techniques provide a tool to model follicle development in order to investigate basic biology, and are further being developed as a technique to preserve fertility in the clinic. Our in vitro culture system employs hydrogels in order to mimic the native ovarian environment by maintaining the 3D follicular architecture, cell-cell interactions and paracrine signaling that direct follicle development. Previously, follicles were successfully cultured in alginate, an inert algae-derived polysaccharide that undergoes gelation with calcium ions. Alginate hydrogels formed at a concentration of 0.25% w/v were the most permissive for follicle culture, and retained the highest developmental competence. Alginate hydrogels are not degradable, thus an increase in the follicle diameter results in a compressive force on the follicle that can impact follicle growth. We subsequently developed a culture system based on a fibrin-alginate interpenetrating network (FA-IPN), in which a mixture of fibrin and alginate are gelled simultaneously. This combination provides a dynamic mechanical environment because both components contribute to matrix rigidity initially; however, proteases secreted by the growing follicle degrade fibrin in the matrix leaving only alginate to provide support. With the IPN, the alginate content can be reduced below 0.25%, which is not possible with alginate alone. Thus, as the follicle expands, it will experience a reduced compressive force due to the reduced solids content. Herein, we describe an encapsulation method and an in vitro culture system for ovarian follicles within a FA-IPN. The dynamic mechanical environment mimics the natural ovarian environment in which small follicles reside in a rigid cortex and move to a more permissive medulla as they increase in size. The degradable component may be particularly critical for clinical translation in order to support the greater than 10(6)-fold increase in volume that human follicles normally undergo in vivo .

DOI: 10.3791/2695

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@article{Shikanov2011AMF, title={A method for ovarian follicle encapsulation and culture in a proteolytically degradable 3 dimensional system.}, author={Ariella Shikanov and Min Xu and Teresa K. Woodruff and Lonnie D Shea}, journal={Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE}, year={2011}, volume={49} }