Published On November 20, 2021
Organoids—cells coaxed to grow into tiny, three-dimensional tissues—have changed the face of basic science. Because they possess key qualities of human organs in miniature, “organoids opened the door to deep analysis of human tissue in a laboratory setting, in a way once possible only with animal models,” says Christina Faherty, a molecular biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Advances in the field have led to even more ingenuity. At MGH, for instance, Faherty and colleagues are studying the Shigella bacterium and how it infects the human intestine. They grew an organoid that included a variety of intestinal cells, including some that produce mucus and others that “sniff” for bacterial intruders. Then they splayed those across a membrane to test how different strains of Shigella infect each cell type.
The model led to new findings on a disease that infects 165 million people per year and kills more than 600,000. “We’ve never before had such a versatile prototype for human disease,” Faherty says. Organoid researchers across the globe have moved to do the same for hundreds of other conditions.
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