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A Promising Future for Organoid Research

A Promising Future for Organoid Research

I kept hearing about the use of organoids in clinical trials and elsewhere and was curious to know more. Luckily, I connected with Samantha Nicholson, the Global Technical Marketing Manager for Cell Culture at Millipore Sigma. She has a very cool job. Samantha is a hub, as she calls it, bringing together scientists to make progress in this exciting new area of research. She described her role, the applications of organoids, and their implications for future scientific research and healthcare.

Organoids, as Samantha explained, are critical in basic research like organogenesis and developmental biology, offering insights into organ functions and disease modeling. Beyond that, their utility spans from drug discovery, where they aid in understanding drug effects and disease development, to pharmacogenetics and even regenerative medicine, potentially leading to breakthroughs like synthetic organs or alternative meat production.

Organoids are not just a mix of cells from a particular organ, they mimic the structure and function of the organ itself. She gave the example of a colon and an organoid having a mucosal layer, an absorptive layer, and a muscle layer , derived from a specific subset of adult stem cells. This allows them to model diseases and organ functions more accurately than traditional 2D cell cultures.

Perhaps most interesting is how organoids can significantly improve the inclusivity and diversity of clinical trials. Historically, clinical trials have suffered from a lack of diversity, often excluding women and other demographic groups. Organoids can be developed from tissue samples from diverse populations worldwide, allowing for a broader understanding of how diseases and treatments affect different demographic groups without the ethical and logistical complexities of human trials.

We'll also be able to do patient stratification. So we're able to look at specific metabolic profiles or racial profiles or genetic mutational landscapes and thentest those drugs in those patients as a stratified process.

So we can compare female and male, Caucasian versus African versus Middle Eastern, for example. And we can also start to develop patient-specific models. So we can take, for example, someone who has hereditary cholesterol and compare it to somebody who has developed cholesterol. And what does that mutational profile, differences in that mutational profile, what does that mean for those people?

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As someone whose last job in a lab was studying host pathogen interactions, I got pretty excited when she told me about the applications in this area. Organoids may fill the goldilocks region between expensive experiments in small animals like mice and the limitations of 2D cell cultures with representing a single cell type. I could have used this 25 years ago!

We briefly dove into process of creating organoids, starting from the isolation of stem cells from a tissue biopsy or through induced pluripotent stem cells. This involves cultivating these cells in specialized media to promote growth and differentiation, mimicking the natural growth environment of cells within the human body.

Despite the promising applications, there are challenges in organoid technology concerning the variability and reproducibility of organoids. The size and shape of organoids can vary, which complicates their use in high-throughput screenings and other standardized tests. Achieving full functionality and maturation of organoids remains a hurdle, as they often lack certain cell types found in natural organs, such as immune or endothelial cells.

When I asked her what is next in the world of organoids, Samantha was optimistic about their potential to democratize drug development and reduce reliance on animal models. She believes that advancing organoid technology could lead to more personalized and effective treatments, enhancing the inclusivity and ethical standards of biomedical research.

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