An automated system that uses robots has been designed to rapidly produce human mini-organs derived from stem cells. Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle developed the new system.
The advance promises to greatly expand the use of mini-organs in basic research and drug discovery, according to Benjamin Freedman, assistant professor of medicine, Division of Nephrology, at the UW School of Medicine, who led the research effort.
“This is a new ‘secret weapon’ in our fight against disease,’ said Freedman, who is a scientist at the UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, as well as at the Kidney Research Institute, a collaboration between the Northwest Kidney Centers and UW Medicine.
A report describing the new technique will be published online May 17 in the journal Cell Stem Cell. The lead authors were research scientists Stefan Czerniecki, and Nelly Cruz from the Freedman lab, and Dr. Jennifer Harder, assistant professor of internal medicine, Division of Nephrology at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, where she is a kidney disease specialist.
The traditional way to grow cells for biomedical research, Freeman explained, is to culture them as flat, two-dimensional sheets, which are overly simplistic. In recent years, researchers have been increasingly successful in growing stem cells into more complex, three-dimensional structures called mini-organs or organoids. These resemble rudimentary organs and in many ways behave similarly. While these properties make organoids ideal for biomedical research, they also pose a challenge for mass production. The ability to mass produce organoids is the most exciting potential applications of the new robotic technology, according to the developers. (Read more from “Robots Can Now Grow Human Organs” HERE)