In Vitro Ovulation Microfluidic Assay Development and Validation
Teresa Woodruff of Northwestern University in the U.S. is developing automated, high-throughput tools using mouse ovarian follicles and endocrine loops between interacting organs integrated with a series of microfluidic and microdynamic systems to identify improved contraceptives with longer-term action and lower cost for low-resource settings. In Phase I, they built the ovulation model, adapted their existing microfluidic system for high-throughput, and combined them to produce a low-content discovery platform comprising up to five interacting organs, representing a complete reproductive tract. This model displayed various biological functions including ovulation and could be supported in a dynamic microfluidic system that replicated the 28-day human hormone cycle. In Phase II, they will increase content and throughput by encapsulating mouse follicles to preserve their three-dimensional architecture, seed them in 96 well plates, and use this to screen for compounds that block follicle rupture. They will also design and integrate biosensors to automate the analysis of hormone concentrations. The ovulation assay will be combined with their microfluidic co-culture system to study the wider effects of candidate contraceptives and identify the most promising candidates for further development.