Science 3 min read

Three-Organoid System Grown in Lab for the First Time

For the first time, scientists were able to grow a three-organoid system in a laboratory setting, a major step in studying human development.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

In a world’s first, scientists were able to grow three-organoid system from stem cells. That’s a connected, functioning set of three organs, which include the liver, pancreas, and biliary ducts.

Organoids are tiny, self-organized, three-dimensional tissue cultures that are derived from stem cells. Depending on the cell types produced, scientists can choose to craft such culture to replicate the complexity of an organ or express specific aspects of it.

In the past, organic experts at Cincinnati Children’s successfully grew a full intestine which included stomach organoids that produce digestive acids, nutrient-absorbing villi, among others.

However, growing a three-organoid system is another thing entirely.

The Process of Growing a Three-Organoid System

Cincinnati Children’s researcher, Takanori Takebe, MD., and his team spent five years perfecting their process.

It began by converting human skin cells back into stem cells. Then, the team guided and proved the resulting stem cells until they had two very early-stage “spheroids” of cells.

In humans, the balls of the cells form during the first month of gestation. However, the process takes only about 8.5 days in mice. During this period, the spheres merge and morph into organs that ultimately become the digestive tracts.

Growing the spheroid wasn’t an easy endeavor.

The researchers had to add the right ingredients at a specific time to avoid complications. However, things got more comfortable as they mature.

By then, the team simply suspended the cells in a gel that supports organoid growth; then they placed it in a thin membrane containing growth medium. From that point, the cells began to grow.

The cells from each spheroid began to meet each other, which led to a transformation. Soon, the spheres sprouted into a group of specialized cells that belong to specific organs.

After nearly three months, the specialized cells had not only multiplied, but they also became more distinct and refined. For example, the mini organoids were processing bile acids like they were digesting and filtering food.

In a statement, first author of the study, Hiroyuki Koike, Ph.D. said:

“This was completely unexpected. We thought we would need to add ingredients or other factors to push this process. Not trying to control this biological process led us to this success.”

What Does This Mean?

The ability to create an integrated organ system provides an opportunity to study development in human. But, in the long term, we could grow organ-tissue that’s large enough to use in transplantation.

Takebe noted:

“Current liver regenerative medicine approaches suffer from the absence of bile duct connectivity. While much work remains before we can begin human clinical trials, our multi-organoid transplant system is poised to solve this issue and may someday provide a life-long cure for patients with liver diseases.”

Read More: New Dual Stem Cell Approach to Heart Regeneration

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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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