Organoids, it’s in the name. They are 3D, miniature and basic versions of organs that help scientists further understand the anatomy and function of various organs. Recently, researchers of Columbia University Medical Centre have created miniature lung organoids (as seen in the image bellow) to aid their knowledge on treating various diseases.
So how are they made? Technology has rapidly improved in the past 7 years and has been used for research in order to help scientists improve their understanding on biological functions. This technology began with attempts to create organs on a dish, which started as a dissociation – reaggregation experiment lead by Henry Van Peters Wilson. The results of this experiment showed that sponge cells could re-organise themselves after being separated, back into one whole organism. After this experiment, there were many similar experiments that were able to generate different types of organs artificially through the dissociation and reaggregation of organ tissues. These experiments often used amphibians as their subjects.
One main purpose of creating these lung organoids was to investigate the RSV – Respiratory Syncytial Virus. RSV is a virus that causes infection in the lungs and breathing passages. Currently, there is no vaccine or effective antiviral therapy to treat infants from RSV, who are the main victims of this virus. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that leads to the scarring of the lungs, causes 30,000 to 40,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, in which a lung transplant is the only cure. Thankfully, with the help of these organoids, scientists can improve their understanding of viruses and hopefully find solutions to the infections they cause.
Dr. Snoeck, a member of the research team said, “organoids, created with human pluripotent or genome-edited embryonic stem cells, may be the best, and perhaps only, way to gain insight into the (causes) of these diseases.” There is no doubt that organoids will become a huge part of scientific research, as it allows scientists to learn more about our body systems. These organoids are expected to keep improving our lives and provide answers to questions that we could not otherwise find an answer to.
Written by Marcus Lai, Year 9