Organic Growth
The BOSS Magazine|August 2019

Using organoids to develop personalized therapeutics

Matthew Flynn

Stem cell research has been both the subject of controversy and a beacon of hope since the cells were first isolated and removed from a human embryo in research labs at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Wisconsin in 1998. Also known as undifferentiated cells, stem cells are especially useful in research because they can become a wide variety of other cells and divide infinitely to renew themselves and replace dead cells.

Stem cells have proven even more fascinating over the past few years thanks to their ability to create organoids — tiny 3D structures of cultured tissue. Organoids have been referred to as “organs in a dish” due to the fact that at 5 mm or less in size, the cultures can contain many of the cells found in a specific organ. The ability to recreate the architecture and functions of organs represents a potential breakthrough in therapeutics and pharmaceutical development.

Organoids and the Development of Organs

Studying organoids could help researchers learn more about the process of organogenesis in the human embryo — the phase of growth in which an embryo’s cells begin to differentiate and transform from an organism solely made up of three layers of germs to one with internal organs. Observing the formation of organoids from stem cells provides researchers insight into human development that had been available previously only by observing such growth in mice and other mammals.

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