This intestinal organoid is one of many organoids that may be used for research use, and, hopefully in the future, clinical use. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons User: Mahhon

Patients awaiting organ transplants often face a lengthy and grueling process, and even after they receive their much needed transplant, there is a good chance their body will reject it. As of 2010, 25% of kidney recipients and 40% of heart recipients experience an episode of acute rejection within the first year after the transplant.1

Fortunately, researchers are taking steps to prevent this. They have begun developing miniature organs, called organoids, which may one day translate to implantation in humans. The process of growing a functioning organ, miniature or otherwise, has proved to be very complex. A number of biological factors need to be accounted for, down to the biomolecular environment that the organs are grown in. As research progresses and moves towards wider spread use of this potentially life-saving technology, innovative lab software will play a key role in ensuring that the correct standards are met for both lab and clinical use.

Growing Pains

Stem cell technology isn’t new, but it is evolving rapidly. Researchers have discovered in recent years that although pluripotency can be induced, these iPSCs cannot just be inserted into any part of the body and blindly expected to take on the traits of their neighbours.2  In the case of full organs, a scaffold is required: something upon which the iPSCs can flourish and become the intended organ. Decellularization of the organs of the newly deceased to obtain its extracellular matrix is one of the more popular approaches to beginning this fresh, rejection resistant organ growth process. Recellularization is an even more complex process that needs to take into account a number of factors including functionality and environment.3

Creating an environment that mimics the human body is challenging. Not only must researchers consider basic factors like temperature and media, but they must also incorporate a whole host of different biological molecules that aren’t typically taken into account. Modern lab software can be used to amalgamate a number of these different in vivo factors when looking to design both organs and organoids. It can assist researchers in increasing their efficiency in designing and analyzing different media, even as it allows them to step away from an unwieldy pen and paper system.

It’s All Gelling Together

A decellularized extracellular matrix may work for full size organs, but what about organoids? They cannot utilize a decellularized matrix in the same way a full size organ can. Most organoid culture methods use animal-derived hydrogels as a 3D matrix. Unfortunately, these gels complicate the process of introducing controlled modifications and may pose pathogen transfers, which immediately precludes them from translation to patient use.

Recently, a group in Switzerland released a paper about a newly developed hydrogel which fills this technological gap. This water and polyethylene glycol hydrogel acts as a base for the whole process and acts as extracellular matrix for stem cells. In this environment, the cells self-organize into miniature versions of the organs required, as per the iPSCs put in. Additionally, by making modifications are various stages throughout organoid development, the researchers have been able to better assess biochemical signalling throughout the process.4 Innovative lab software can be used to track these microscopic manipulations and better assess the biochemical changes throughout the process. As researchers better understand the underlying processes, more drug targets may be identified and moving this technology from benchtop to bedside grows more tangible.

This technology, combine with modern lab software, may allow for researchers to gain new insight into these disorders and many others in the same tissues. BIOVIA Electronic Laboratory Notebooks can assist researchers in reducing time spent looking for data by 50% and improve productivity by 25% while removing all non-value added manual activities and errors. This technology is fascinating and opens doors to research and helping patients weather organ donor shortages. Please contact us today to learn more about how our software options can support the efforts of your lab.

  1. “Researchers find faster, less-intrusive way to identify transplant recipients’ organ rejection,” September 23, 2010, https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2010/09/researchers-find-faster-less-intrusive-way-to-identify-transplant-recipients-organ-rejection.html
  2. “Stem cell treatment causes nasal growth in woman’s back,” July 8, 2014, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25859-stem-cell-treatment-causes-nasal-growth-in-womans-back/
  3. “Tissue engineering: How to build a heart,” July 3, 2013, http://www.nature.com/news/tissue-engineering-how-to-build-a-heart-1.13327
  4. “Designer matrices for intestinal stem cell and organoid culture,” November 16, 2016, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v539/n7630/full/nature20168.html