Science 3 min read

Cyborg Organoids for Studying Early Stages of Organ Development

In an effort to understand organ development further, scientists have grown cyborg organoids in lab using living cells and sensors.

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Scientists have grown cyborg organoids to provide a rare view into the early stages of organ development.

While the early stages of organ development is a critical period in developmental biology, it’s also a big mystery. That’s partly because researchers have never been able to develop a sensor that’s small or flexible enough to monitor the process without damaging the cells.

As a result, examining how a small group of cells organize to become a liver, heart, or brain has always been challenging. But that’s about to change.

Thanks to the cyborg organoids grown by the research team at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), now we can catch a glimpse of the early stages of organ development.

In their paper in Nano Letters, the researchers described how the simplified organs with fully integrated sensors work.

Generating Cyborg Organoids

It began when Jia Liu, a graduate student in the lab of the Joshua and Beth Friedman University Professor Charles M. Lieber, developed flexible, mesh-like nanoelectronics. At the time, the researcher noted that the device could be injected into specific regions of tissues.

So, Liu and his team decided to build on the design. They changed the mesh’s shape from a straight line to serpentine structures. This resulted in stretchable nanoelectronics that could be transferred onto a 2D sheet of stem cells.

The cells covered and interwove with the nanoelectronics via cell-cell attraction forces and ultimately developed into a fully grown 3D organoid with embedded sensors. Then, the researchers watch as nature took its course.

The stem cells differentiated into heart cells, while the team monitored and recorded the whole electrophysiological activity for three months.

In a statement, Jia Liu, now an assistant professor of Bioengineering at SEAS said:

“I was so inspired by the natural organ development process in high school, in which 3D organs start from few cells in 2D structures. I think if we can develop nanoelectronics that is so flexible, stretchable, and soft that they can grow together with developing tissue through their natural development process, the embedded sensors can measure the entire activity of this developmental process.”

The method is not limited to the heart cells alone. According to the researcher, it could be used to turn any organoid, such as brain and pancreas, into cyborg organoids.

Aside from helping us understand the dynamics of individual cell interaction during the developmental process, the method also has medical applications. For example, health professionals can use it to monitor patient-specific drug treatments.

Scientists are also eyeing cyborg organoids for organ transplantations in the future.

Read More: Science now Gives you the Opportunity to Become a Cyborg

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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