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Menstrual cycle recreated on a chip

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Researchers have created a replica of the female reproductive tract using a 3D model that mimics the natural menstrual cycle.

The researchers built the model with cells of each of the five organs necessary for female fertility, including the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes. The tissue was derived from hysterectomies, apart from the ovarian cells, which were taken from mice.

The model, called Evatar, is supplied with the hormones which are produced during the menstrual cycle, and each of the organs is exposed to the hormones by the flow of a special fluid designed to act like blood.

It is also connected to a second organ-on-a-chip system which represents the liver, so that any drugs introduced for testing can be metabolised in a natural manner.

Although the palm-sized device doesn’t look like a womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries, the researchers believe will be used to test drugs as well as to investigate the causes of illnesses such endometriosis and some forms of cancer.

“This represents not only a revolution in cell culture technique, but also an evolution of the study of the reproductive tract and disease” said Dr Terese Woodruff from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois and senior author of the study.

The device is part of a project to create the entire human “body on a chip”.  The ultimate goal would be to take cells from any given individual in order to create a personalised model of their body to test drugs and treatments on, Nature Communications reports.

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