Cells Snap Together to Form Organoids

October
2015

Creating tiny human organs could be as easy as building structures from toy blocks, thanks to a process developed by scientists at the Univ. of California, San Francisco.

The new technique produces organoids, miniature models of human tissues grown in a laboratory. With this method, researchers can create arrays of thousands of organoids, each containing several hundred cells, in just hours. Such lab-grown organs could be used to study the growth of cancer, understand how a particular disease attacks the body, screen new pharmaceuticals, and develop personalized medicine.

“This technique lets us produce simple components of tissue in a dish that we can easily study and manipulate,” says Michael Todhunter, a postdoctoral scholar of pharmaceutical chemistry at UCSF.

The researchers use pieces of single-stranded DNA to program cells to organize into a particular tissue structure. The DNA strands act as both a barcode and an adhesive — telling the cells which other cells they should attach to and giving them the sticking power to make the attachment. Each cell is incubated with snippets of single-stranded DNA, which slip into the outer membrane of the cell, covering the cell surface...

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