Miniature model of reproductive system may advance treatment of women's diseases, researchers say
WEDNESDAY, March 29, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they have created a palm-size model of the female reproductive system that even has a period.
Dubbed a menstrual cycle in a dish, the miniature 3-D replica includes human and rodent tissue and models of ovaries, fallopian tubes, the uterus, cervix, vagina and liver.
The technology could lead to improvements in treating diseases in women's reproductive organs, including cancer and infertility, the model's creators said.
"This is nothing short of a revolutionary technology," lead investigator Teresa Woodruff said.
Woodruff is a reproductive scientist and director of the Women's Health Research Institute at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
EVATAR, as it's called, resembles a small cube. A special fluid pumping through all of the organ models performs the function of blood.
Hormones and other secreted substances mimic how they work together in the body.
The technology can be used to test new drugs to see how females process medications differently from males, the scientists said.
It should also add to knowledge about female reproductive tract disorders, such as fibroids -- noncancerous uterine growths that affect up to eight in 10 women -- and endometriosis, the researchers said. Endometriosis is the condition where tissue that's normally inside the uterus grows outside the uterus.
It may even be possible to use the stem cells of an individual patient to create a personalized model of their reproductive system, Woodruff noted.
"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,' " Woodruff said in a university news release.
"It's the ultimate personalized medicine, a model of your body for testing drugs," she added.
Of course, much more research is needed before that becomes a reality. Also, research involving animal tissue isn't always replicated in humans.
The project is part of a U.S. National Institutes of Health effort to create "a body on a chip."
The research is described in a paper published March 28 in the journal Nature Communications.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on female reproductive health disorders.