Aurelien Forget of the University of South Australia in Australia will develop a three-dimensional bioprinted model of the fallopian tube (oviduct) as a screening platform to identify compounds that specifically block sperm activation for developing a female contraceptive that targets male sperm. This contraceptive could in principle be taken before or after intercourse, and would pose no risk to male fertility as it is taken by the female, or to female fertility as it targets a male-specific process. It should also avoid the side effects associated with classical hormonal contraceptives. Sperm first need to be activated (capacitated) in the oviduct before they have the ability to penetrate the cells and protein layer surrounding the egg in order to fertilize it. To reproduce this process in vitro, they will isolate oviduct cell populations from mice and use their synthetic, printable extracellular matrix to build a three-dimensional oviduct that reproduces the four-layered structure. They will assess cell viability and function in their assembled oviduct, as well as its ability to capacitate mouse and human sperm.
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