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Biology, Technology

Robots Growing Tiny Human Organs

Imagine hundreds of new replacement human organs growing in laboratory factories. We aren’t that far from this futuristic mad scientist vision. My personal guess is that we will have new organs within 100 years, baring major human disasters. We are already (September 2018) able to grow many different miniature human organs from stem cells. Using robots, the process can be automated.

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 …

In the new study, the researchers used a robotic system to automate the procedure for growing stem cells into organoids. Although similar approaches have been successful with adult stem cells, this is the first report of successfully automating the manufacture of organoids from pluripotent stem cells. That cell type is versatile and capable of becoming any type of organ. …

In this process, the liquid-handling robots introduced the stem cells into plates that contained as many as 384 miniature wells each, and then coaxed them to turn into kidney organoids over 21 days. Each little microwell typically contained ten or more organoids, and each plate contained thousands of organoids. With a speed that would have impressed Henry Ford’s car assembly line, the robots could produce many plates in a fraction of the time. …

Read more SciDaily

Stem cells, given the right conditions, self-organize into organs. We don’t know all the conditions needed, but many scientists are working on this. Will we ever be able to replicate them all in a laboratory? I think so, eventually. How many of the “80” human organs have already been grown as mini-organs?

organs of the human body. It is widely believed that there are 80 organs; however, there is no universally standard definition of what constitutes an organ, and some tissue groups’ status as one is debated.[1] Since there is no single standard definition of what an organ is, the number of organs varies depending on how one defines an organ. For example, this list contains much more than 80 different organs.

Full list at Wikipedia

Progress growing replacement organs from stem cells has been made for hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys, skin, teeth, noses, ears, eyes, pancreases, stomachs, vaginas (success), penises, sperm cells, egg cells, esophaguses, windpipes / tracheas (success), bones, bladders (success) and even brains.

As the reservoirs of human development, stem cells take it upon themselves to tirelessly renew and differentiate into the myriad cell types required to build out a body from an embryo. In creating an organoid, typical construction metaphors do not apply. There are no building blocks to nail, stack, or solder and no job-site supervisor barking orders. “That’s not how biology works,” says Zev Gartner, PhD, an associate professor of pharmaceutical chemistry.

“It is a self-organizing process,” he explains, a process that starts in the womb with embryonic stem cells (ESCs) or, in the case of organoids, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). iPSCs are mature cells that are stripped back to their earliest stage of development using a process devised by UCSF Professor of Anatomy Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, who won a Nobel Prize for discovering the process. To make organoids, iPSCs are put through a series of solutions, then added to a gel that mimics the squishy 3-D cellular matrix of the embryo. The gel provides the right conditions for them to get to work.

“Take an organ like the lung. Its basic functional units are a tube and a sac, and outside that sac are capillaries that allow gas exchange. Hundreds of millions of tubes and sacs make a lung,” explains Gartner. “You can make the little sacs and the tubes in a dish as an organoid model. But we don’t know how to drive the self-organization of those units into much more complex, elaborate, highly ramified structures.” The fundamental limitation of organoids is that they lack the vasculature that brings nutrient-laden blood to fuel the evolution of the larger structure.

via UCSF

Self-organizing systems are a fascinating topic, one I recommend exploring if you are curious about the mysteries of life.



About Xeno

E pluribus unum.


One thought on “Robots Growing Tiny Human Organs

  1. Very interesting. I hope that the developments will be available to all, when they are perfected.

    Posted by thebruceyexperiment | 1 Sep 2018, 11:24 pm

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