Division of Biology and Medicine
Center for Alternatives to Animals in Testing


The Morgan lab is using ovary microtissues to measure the effects of drugs and environmental chemicals that can affect fertility.

Ovary 3D Microtissues

  • The Morgan lab has developed a 3D microtissue of the human ovary. The microtissue is comprised of human granulosa cells, the cells that surround and nourish the oocyte (immature egg) in the female ovary.
  • The ovary microtissue is a multi-cell layered structure that mimics the avascular architecture of the granulosa surrounding the oocyte.
  • The cells in the microtissue form functional gap junctions, direct connections that electrically and chemically couple the cells. Gap junction intercellular communication relays important signals for the maturation of the oocyte.
  • We have utilized the Opera Phenix high-content imaging system to develop a high throughput assay to measure gap junction intercellular communication in living 3D microtissues.
  • The ovary microtissues also synthesize and secrete estradiol and progesterone, two hormones that are critical for oocyte maturation and successful reproduction.
  • Estradiol synthesis by the microtissue is induced by follicle stimulating hormone and cAMP and we’ve shown that it is inhibited by chemicals that target the aromatase enzyme (CYP19) central to the synthesis of estradiol.
  • We are using ovary microtissues to measure the effects of drugs and environmental chemicals that can affect fertility by disrupting gap junction communication and the synthesis of estradiol.

Learn More

Bao, B., Jiang, J., Yanase, T., Nishi, Y., & Morgan, J. R. (2011). Connexon-mediated cell adhesion drives microtissue self-assembly. FASEB Journal, 25(1), 255-264. PMC3005422

Leary, E., Rhee, C., Wilks, B., & Morgan, J. R. (2016).  Quantitative wide field fluorescence microscopy of 3D spheroids. BioTechniques, 61(5), 237-247. PMID: 27839509

Leary, E., Rhee, C., Wilks, B. T., & Morgan, J. R. (2018). Quantitative live-cell confocal imaging of 3D spheroids in a high-throughput format. SLAS Technology, 23(3), 231-242. PMC5962438