Spatial Analysis of Growing Follicles in the Human Ovary to Inform Tissue Engineering Strategies

Natalie Quan, Jamie N. Mara, Allison R. Grover, Mary Ellen Pavone, Francesca E. Duncan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Cancer survivorship has increased considerably, but common cancer treatments may threaten female reproductive health and fertility. In females, standard fertility preservation techniques include egg and embryo banking and ovarian tissue cryopreservation, but these methods are not suitable for all individuals. Emerging fertility preservation technologies include in vitro follicle growth and ovarian bioprosthetics. Although these platforms hold tremendous promise, they remain in the preclinical phase likely because of our inability to adequately phenocopy the complexity of the in vivo ovarian environment. The goal of this study was to use an established research archive of fixed human ovarian tissue established through the Oncofertility Consortium to better understand the dynamics and milieu of growing follicles within the human ovary. We performed a histological analysis of the immediate surroundings of primary and secondary stage follicles. We evaluated oocyte and follicle diameters of these growing follicles, analyzed their growth trajectories, and mapped their precise relationships to other stage follicles within a defined area. We also stratified our findings according to participant age and previous treatment history. Our results serve as in vivo benchmarks for follicles grown in vitro and provide insight into how follicles should be seeded spatially within bioprosthetic ovaries, potentially improving the efficacy and clinical translation of these emerging technologies. Life-preserving cancer treatments have greatly increased survivorship. However, treatments often have off-target health consequences that threaten female reproductive health and fertility. Although several standard fertility preservation options exist, there is a constant need to explore and expand options for all populations. In vitro follicle growth and ovarian bioprosthetics are new experimental procedures, which are currently limited to proof of concept. In this study, we analyzed human ovarian tissue from a deidentified biospecimen repository to characterize the growing follicle landscape with the ultimate goal of informing bioengineering practices. This spatial analysis pinpoints the geometry of growing follicles within the human ovary and provides a framework for paralleling this environment in ex vivo platforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)733-746
Number of pages14
JournalTissue Engineering - Part A
Issue number13-14
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • fertility preservation
  • follicle
  • human
  • ovarian tissue cryopreservation
  • ovary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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