3/29/2023 - Technology and Innovation

Organoids: The plant of laboratory organs

By Sahira Janeir Garazatúa

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Although it seems science fiction that's true... but not everything. Organoids are three-dimensional models of organs consisting of the presence and organization of all or almost all cell types of the natural organ in concrete organized so that they mimic it functionally and structurally. They are grown from different origins: from stem cells, pluripotencials, adults or from reprogrammed cells (iPSC) in the laboratory and are created in a 3D scaffold, which provides the cells with the necessary signals to differentiate themselves into the desired cell types. In order to account, they have a smaller size and cannot have 100% of the activity that is created in the environment and with the original conditions, although in the future it is expected that they will be able to perform in full the same functions as the real organs, such as filtering toxins, producing hormones and secreting enzymes. It is still a field of research that is under development.

Benefits

Fortunately, as far as science has managed to reach with this biotechnology tool, many positive things have been allowed:

  1. Studying human diseases that affect a particular organ in a controlled environment: helping researchers better understand diseases and develop new treatments. For example: brain organoids as a powerful tool for the study of diseases such as Autism, schizophrenia and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson. Even, the Cambridge University Brain Disease Modelling group led by Dr. Madeline Lancaster has managed to develop brainids that can produce brain waves similar to those found in the human brain.
  2. Deploy organs: In the future, it is expected that this field will solve the absence of organs for patients. However, so far, the lack of correct vascularization hinders the size; although skin organoids have been used in patients with very specific burns or diseases such as treatment.
  3. Develop customized treatments: The ability to cultivate organoids from cells of an individual patient means that doctors can obtain specific information about the most effective treatment for this particular patient. In addition, organoids can also be used to test drug toxicity in specific patients, which can help prevent adverse reactions and side effects. This is widely used in cancer patients under tumor production.
  4. To model fetal development: to study the recapitulation of natural facts, as well as in diseases and disorders that occur during fetal development, although these studies are limited to a given period.
  5. Investigate the toxicity of chemicals and medicines: it can help researchers develop safer and less toxic products.
  6. Other curious utilities: in space organoids can be used to study the effects of radiation, microgravity and other environmental factors in human cells. This could help scientists understand how the human body responds to space travel and develop ways to protect the astronauts from the harsh conditions of space.
The common factor that has all the named utilities is that, with its appearance, we managed to reduce the number of animals used in research, which further value its usefulness.

Have you ever wondered where the organoid design would lead us in a future?

Ethical aspects

As organoids can be used in medical research, there are a number of regulations and guidelines that should be followed to ensure they are used responsibly.

In many countries, the use of organoids is regulated by medical research laws and regulations, and the institutions that use them are required to comply with these regulations. In Argentina, the National Law on Medical and Scientific Research (Law 25,649) and Resolution 1480/2011 of the Ministry of Health establishes ethical and scientific guidelines for the use of human cells and tissues in medical research, including the generation and use of organoids. The main regulations include:

  • The need to respect the rights of patients and obtain the cells ethically and legally. The informed consent of cell or tissue donors must be obtained for use in research and ensure their privacy and confidentiality of the data.
  • The need to ensure the quality, safety and efficacy of organoids used in research, including the use of good laboratory practices and the assessment of associated risks.
  • The need to comply with ethical and scientific standards to ensure that organoids are used responsibly and do not harm cell donors or animals used in the investigation.
It is important to note that, in addition to national regulations, there are also international ethical and scientific guidelines for the use of organoids in medical research, such as those established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Council of Medical Organizations of Basic Sciences (CIOMS).

On the other hand, the use of brain organoids is a controversial theme for some. While they may be a valuable tool in biomedical research by providing information on the development, functioning of the human brain and could lead to advances in the understanding and treatment of neurological diseases, it is also important to carefully address the ethical and legal concerns associated with its use and scientific limitations. Questions can arise about the nature of consciousness and life. How can they have characteristics that resemble those of a human brain, it can be difficult to determine at what point they consider they have a life of their own and as they become more advanced and increasingly resemble the human brain taking into account the potential of the presence of sensitivity and the ability to experience suffering or pain, should they have some kind of legal protection or rights if they consider they have a life of their own?

Organoids represent a new frontier in medical research and personalized medicine. With the potential to improve the effectiveness of treatments and reduce side effects, they are an exciting tool for the investigation and treatment of diseases. Although there are still issues to be addressed, their potential is undeniable.

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sahira janeir

Sahira Janeir Garazatúa

Hi, I'm Sahira, Biotechnologist Biomedical! I studied in Buenos Aires where I focused on epigenetics and reproduction, but now I find myself in Spain developing cell therapy and neuronal regeneration of the spinal cord, and combining AI for early detection of diseases. In addition, the CDTM Technology Management, Valencia-Munich study, which develops innovative digital products and solutions for companies such as Lufthansa and S2group.

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