Organoids: what are they & how do they help regenerative medicine?

Research on stem cells and developmental biology has made it possible to grow small bits of tissue in the laboratory called organoids. Scientists have created organoids that closely resemble many organs, from the liver and kidneys to the brain. What do researchers learn from growing organoids? How do they help regenerative medicine?

Obtaining human tissue to study organ development and diseases can be difficult due to limited availability or ethical concerns. Organoids provide researchers with new alternatives and opportunities for advancing research.

Researchers can use organoids to study the complex arrangements and interactions of cells in three-dimensions, which is not possible with most other experimental models.

Organoids are already being used to study diseases, discover new drugs and learn how cells assemble into organs.

Researchers are exploring how to generate organoids for a wide variety of human tissues. Procedures for growing organoids are still in the early stages of development, and many tissues have yet to be successfully grown as organoids.

Key to the growth of organoids in laboratories is determining the necessary growth conditions, such as physical structures to grow on and external growth factors.

Organoids are being examined for their potential to supply healthy new cells and tissues to advance regenerative medicines.

Organoids made from patients' induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) could allow personalised medicines, with the potential to pre-test medical treatments on organoids rather than directly on people.

Most organoids contain only a subset of all the cells in a real organ. Creating fully functional and stable tissues will require developing ways to integrate other cellular systems into organoids, such as the vascular system.

The process of trying to replicate diseases in organoids is not always straightforward, but will likely reveal important aspects of diseases not previously appreciated.

Although organoids offer many benefits and opportunities to researchers, they still have limitations and will not be able to completely replace other experimental systems.