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Rigshospitalet - a part of Copenhagen University Hospital

Initial steps in reconstruction of the human ovary: survival of pre-antral stage follicles in a decellularized human ovarian scaffold

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STUDY QUESTION: Can a reconstructed ovary using decellularized human ovarian tissue (DCT) support survival of pre-antral stage follicles?

SUMMARY ANSWER: We have demonstrated an effective protocol for decellularization of human ovarian tissues and successful recellularization with isolated human ovarian cells and pre-antral follicles.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Survivors of leukemia or ovarian cancer run a risk of reintroducing malignancy when cryopreserved ovarian tissue is transplanted to restore fertility. A reconstructed ovary free of malignant cells could provide a safe alternative. Decellularization of ovarian tissue removes all cells from the extracellular matrix (ECM) including possible malignancies and leaves behind a physiological scaffold. The ECM offers the complex milieu that facilitates the necessary interaction between ovarian follicles and their surroundings to ensure their growth and development. Previous studies have shown that decellularized bovine ovarian scaffolds supported murine follicle growth and restoration of ovarian function in ovariectomized mice.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Optimizing a decellularization protocol for human ovarian tissues and testing biofunctionality of the decellularized scaffolds in vitro and in vivo by reseeding with both murine and human pre-antral follicles and ovarian cells.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Donated human ovarian tissue and isolated pre-antral follicles were obtained from women undergoing ovarian tissue cryopreservation for fertility preservation. Ovarian cortical and medullary tissues were decellularized using 0.1% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) for 3, 6, 18 and 24 hours followed by 24 hours of 1 mg/mL DNase treatment and washing. Decellularization of ovarian tissues and preservation of ECM were characterized by morphological evaluation using Periodic Acid-Schiff (PAS) staining, DNA quantification, histochemical quantification of collagen content and immunofluorescence analysis for collagen IA, laminin, fibronectin and DNA. Human ovarian stromal cells and isolated human pre-antral follicles were reseeded on the DCT and cultured in vitro. Isolated murine (N = 241) and human (N = 20) pre-antral follicles were reseeded on decellularized scaffolds and grafted subcutaneously to immunodeficient mice for 3 weeks.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Incubation in 0.1% SDS for 18-24 hours adequately decellularized both human ovarian medullary and cortical tissue by eliminating all cells and leaving the ECM intact. DNA content in DCT was decreased by >90% compared to native tissue samples. Histological examination using PAS staining confirmed that the cortical and medullary tissues were completely decellularized, and no visible nuclear material was found within the decellularized sections. DCT also stained positive for collagen I and collagen quantities in DCT constituted 88-98% of the individual baselines for native samples. Human ovarian stroma cells were able to recellularize the DCT and isolated human pre-antral follicles remained viable in co-culture. Xenotransplantation of DCT reseeded with human or murine pre-antral follicles showed, that the DCT was able to support survival of human follicles and growth of murine follicles, of which 39% grew to antral stages. The follicular recovery rates after three weeks grafting were low but similar for both human (25%) and murine follicles (21%).


LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: Further studies are needed to increase recovery and survival of the reseeded follicles. Longer grafting periods should be evaluated to determine the developmental potential of human follicles. Survival of the follicles might be impaired by the lack of stroma cells.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: This is the first time that isolated human follicles have survived in a decellularized human scaffold. Therefore, this proof-of-concept could be a potential new strategy to eliminate the risk of malignant cell re-occurrence in former cancer patients having cryopreserved ovarian tissue transplanted for fertility restoration.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): This study is part of the ReproUnion collaborative study, co-financed by the European Union, Interreg V ÖKS. Furthermore, Project ITN REP-BIOTECH 675526 funded by the European Union, European Joint Doctorate in Biology and Technology of the Reproductive Health, the Research Pools of Rigshospitalet, the Danish Cancer Foundation and Dagmar Marshalls Foundation are thanked for having funded this study. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and interpretation, or in the decision to submit the work for publication.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman reproduction (Oxford, England)
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1523-1535
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

ID: 59044700