Exploring the Multifunctionality of Mini-Organs

An ultrasound scan may sometimes show that the kidneys of a developing fetus are smaller than they should be. Yet, without an obvious genetic anomaly, doctors are usually unable to comprehend the reason behind this or determine the solution. However, by extracting a tiny sample of amniotic fluid and nurturing it into a kidney organoid, the issue may become apparent, along with a prospective solution.

Fascinating, isn’t it? But the benefits of organoids do not stop there. They have a multitude of novel and remarkable applications.

Organoids could potentially fast-track the creation of new drugs. As per some estimates, 90% of potential drug candidates fail during human testing. This is mainly because initial testing largely uses cells and rodents, neither of which is a perfect representation of humans.

Despite not being human themselves, organoids offer a better model as they are derived from human tissues, making them more complex than a single layer of cells. One cancer researcher compared studying an organ through its cells to learning about a house by examining a heap of bricks.

In line with this belief, Roche appointed organoid pioneer Hans Clevers to lead its Pharma Research and Early Development division in 2022. In Clevers’ view, organoids will eventually enhance everything that is currently in practice. Now that he has seen the entire drug development process, Clevers is convinced that organoids can be utilized at every stage.

Even though developing organoids is more complex than culturing cell lines, some firms are trying to automate the process. Biotechnology company Vivodyne has engineered a robotic system that merges organoids with organ-on-a-chip technology, allowing it to culture 20 different types of human tissue and test them against drugs. This system serves as “lab-grown human test subjects” that generate “ample amounts of intricate human data–more than any clinical trial could provide,” according to Andrei Georgescu, CEO and co-founder of Vivodyne.

Per Vivodyne’s official site, their exclusive machines can simultaneously test 10,000 different lab-grown human tissues, a capacity they term as “vivarium-scale output.” The phrase may take some time to understand, but essentially, it signifies that their robot can supply as much data as an entire lab full of mice.