Cell and Gene Therapies
Cell-Based Hormone Therapy
Fluorescent cell tracking shows how two ovary cell types are incapsulated.
Ovaries are the female reproductive organs that produce eggs that are fertilized for pregnancy as well as secrete hormones important to bone and cardiovascular health. Several conditions can lead to loss of ovarian tissue and its functions, including premature ovarian failure. In addition, certain types of cancer that require the use of chemotherapy and radiation can injure the ovaries. These conditions can prevent women from having children and can disrupt the proper hormonal balance.
Institute scientists are working on two different projects to restore ovarian function:
Cell-based Hormone Therapy: Although medications, known as hormone replacement therapy, can compensate for the loss of ovarian hormone production, it can result in higher-than-normal hormone levels and complications. Institute scientists are working on a cell-based hormone therapy – essentially an artificial ovary to deliver sex hormones in a more natural manner than drugs. The project involves using donor ovarian cells that are "encapsulated” with a thin membrane that allows oxygen and nutrients to enter the capsule, but prevent issues that would cause the patient to reject the cells. In laboratory studies, the encapsulated cells secreted sex hormones, demonstrating for the first time that the hormone-producing units of ovaries can be engineered outside the body. Scientists will next test the encapsulated cells in preclinical studies to evaluate effectiveness.
Using a Woman’s Own Cells to Grow Eggs in the Laboratory (read about this project under Engineered Tissue)
Stem cells found in placenta, or afterbirth, show promise for treating cystic fibrosis.