The ovarian follicle that contains one single oocyte is the fundamental functional tissue unit of mammalian ovary. Therefore, isolation and in vitro culture of ovarian follicles to obtain fertilizable oocytes are regarded as a promising strategy for women to combat infertility. In this communication, we performed a brief survey of studies on microfluidic encapsulation of ovarian follicles in core–shell hydrogel microcapsules for biomimetic 3D culture. These studies highlighted that recapitulation of the mechanical heterogeneity of the extracellular matrix in ovary is crucial for in vitro culture to develop early pre-antral follicles to the antral stage, and for the release of cumulus–oocyte complex (COC) from antral follicles in vitro. The hydrogel encapsulation-based biomimetic culture system and the microfluidic technology may be invaluable to facilitate follicle culture as a viable option for restoring women’s fertility in the clinic.
He, X. Ann Biomed Eng (2017). doi:10.1007/s10439-017-1823-7