Future Challenges and Opportunities of Extracellular Matrix Hydrogels in Female Reproductive Medicine
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(7), 3765.
2022 doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23073765
Bioengineering and reproductive medicine have progressed shoulder to shoulder for several decades. A key point of overlap is the development and clinical translation of technologies to support reproductive health, e.g., scaffold-free constructs, polymeric scaffolds, bioprinting or microfluidics, and hydrogels. Hydrogels are the focus of intense study, and those that are derived from the extracellular matrix (ECM) of reproductive tissues and organs are emerging as promising new players given their results in pre-clinical models. This literature review addresses the recent advances in the use of organ-specific ECM hydrogels in reproductive medicine, considering the entire female reproductive tract. We discuss in-depth papers describing the development of ECM hydrogels, their use in in vitro models, and their in vivo application in preclinical studies. We also summarize the functions of hydrogels, including as grafts, carriers for cell transplantation, or drug depots, and present the potential and possible scope for use of ECM hydrogels in the near future based on recent scientific advances.