Half of the human population has female reproductive organs, and yet a significant amount of mystery still surrounds women-specific health issues. But hope may be on the horizon: only a few weeks ago, scientists revealed they had successfully created a miniature device that can mimic the female reproductive cycle.
What does this mean for women everywhere? Potentially, a few things.
Researchers hope the device will help lead to treatments for a number of medical problems, ranging from gynecological cancers to miscarriages, endometriosis, infertility and fibroids. Crafted from living tissue, the device has been dubbed “EVATAR,” a playful spin on the word “avatar,” which the researchers at Northwestern University felt befitted the invention.
“An avatar is kind of a digital representation of an individual in a virtual environment,” Teresa Woodruff, a biomedical engineer who helped create the system, recently told NPR. “So when we thought about this synthetic version of the female reproductive tract we thought of the word EVATAR.”
To create EVATAR, scientists compiled tissue from human fallopian tubes, a cervix and a uterus—all of which were donated by women who had recently undergone surgery. From there, each tissue type was divided up into individual plastic chambers, which were then connected through a series of passageways. Fluid pumps spread throughout the chambers helped simulate the function of blood during a full 28-day reproductive cycle.
Researchers were also able to mimic the release of an egg, and the general hormonal production that occurs during a given cycle. “EVATAR allows us to think about all the organs kind of connected in a way that eventually we hope will be the future of personalized medicine,” Woodruff told NPR.
Until that day, however, scientists only plan to use EVATAR to aid in the study of female anatomy, and developing innovative treatments. Northwestern researches have also started work on the male equivalent of the device, dubbed “ADATAR,” which will involve a complex system of male testes and prostate tissue (also known as the “Dude Cube”).