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Noemi Monferini Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory (ReDBioLab), Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

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Pritha Dey Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory (ReDBioLab), Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

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Ludovica Donadini Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory (ReDBioLab), Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

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Niki Katsakoglou Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory (ReDBioLab), Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

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Federica Franciosi Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory (ReDBioLab), Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

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Valentina Lodde Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory (ReDBioLab), Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

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Alberto Maria Luciano Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory (ReDBioLab), Department of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

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In brief

Preantral follicles constitute the largest follicle reserve in the mammalian ovary. This study assesses a mechanical isolation method to maximize the number of follicles retrieved from a defined cortex volume.

Abstract

Primordial, primary, and secondary follicles (collectively defined as preantral follicles) constitute the most abundant source of gametes inside the mammalian ovarian cortex. The massive isolation of preantral follicles and the refinement of stage-specific protocols for in vitro follicle growth would provide a powerful tool to boost the rescue and restoration of fertility in assisted reproduction interventions in human medicine, animal breeding, and vulnerable species preservation. Nevertheless, together with an efficient culture system, the most significant limitation to implementing in vitro follicle growth is the lack of an efficient method to isolate viable and homogeneous subpopulations of primordial, primary, and secondary follicles suitable for in vitro culture. Our study provides a strategy for high-yielding mechanical isolation of primordial, primary, and early secondary follicles from a limited portion of the ovarian cortex in the bovine animal model. In the first part of the study, we refined a mechanical isolation protocol of preantral follicles, adopting specific methodological strategies to separate viable and distinct subpopulations of primordial (oblate and prolate forms), primary, and early secondary follicles from 0.16 cm3 of the ovarian cortex. In the second part of the study, we tested the effectiveness of the isolation protocol, considering the individual’s age as a critical factor, bearing in mind the progressive decrease in the ovarian reserve that naturally accompanies the reproductive life span. Our study provides a way for designing quantitative and conservative fertility preservation approaches to preserve organ function and minimize the invasiveness of the interventions, also considering age-related differences.

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