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The biofabrication of a 3D in vitro human oviduct model to study infertility and factors affecting embryo development

Project description

A 3D in vitro oviduct model

The oviducts or fallopian tubes connect the ovary to the uterus, transferring egg and sperm and providing a suitable environment for fertilisation. The first embryonic cell divisions take place at the oviduct, setting the stage for fetal development and health in adult life. However, there are no suitable 3D models to further study the molecular mechanisms underlying oviduct function. Funded by the European Research Council, the OviChip project aims to build a 3D in vitro model that recapitulates the structural and biological aspects of the oviduct. The key objective is to understand the selection of healthy sperm and the impact of epigenetic factors affecting embryogenesis.

Objective

Despite being viewed as a simple transport conduit, the oviduct can determine a successful pregnancy and has a life-long impact on our health and wellbeing. Also called the fallopian tube, our understanding of tubal function remains limited, owing to the ethical limitations of human studies and the poor translations of animal studies to people. The objective of the OviChip project is to create the first full-scale 3D in vitro model of the oviduct that can address our knowledge gap. The oviduct selects healthy sperm and hosts the first embryonic cell divisions, setting the stage for fetal development and health in our adult life. Epigenetic factors can trigger genetic defects in these first moments that lead to unsuccessful pregnancies or ailments such as Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, and schizophrenia. When oviduct function is compromised, such as through a Chlamydia Trachomatis infection, infertility can arise. A common recourse for prospective parents is in vitro fertilization (IVF). However, IVF success rates have plateaued at 30% for the past decade and concerns have emerged about the epigenetic impact IVF has on a child’s health. Therefore, to improve embryo viability and IVF outcomes or to avoid IVF by addressing tubal pathologies, our knowledge gap about oviduct function must be addressed. The OviChip project will develop biofabrication technologies to create a 3D model that respects the structural and biological elements of the oviduct from a meso to micron scale. The anticipated outcomes include: 1) the validation of new biofabrication approaches; 2) a better understanding of Chlamydia-associated tubal pathologies; 3) insight into the oviduct microenvironment with respect to sperm selection and epigenetic factors affecting embryogenesis. The OviChip will strive for unprecedented biomimicry and functional readout, setting new standards for tissue engineering. Most importantly, this will provide a unique avenue to fundamental answers that impact patients.

Host institution

UNIVERSITEIT MAASTRICHT
Net EU contribution
€ 2 318 530,00
Address
MINDERBROEDERSBERG 4
6200 MD Maastricht
Netherlands

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Region
Zuid-Nederland Limburg (NL) Zuid-Limburg
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
€ 2 318 530,00

Beneficiaries (1)