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It's not science fiction: UC San Diego researchers are developing human organoids — miniaturized, 3D versions of an organ produced from reprogrammed stem cells in the lab. These models, sometimes called "organs-in-a-dish," have allowed scientists to study biological functions, diseases and treatments more realistically and in greater detail than ever before. So far this approach has been used to produce the first direct experimental proof that the Zika virus can cause severe birth defects, to repurpose existing HIV drugs to treat a rare neurological disorder, and to explore what distinguishes us from our Neanderthal ancestors. The tiny brains have even traveled to and from the International Space Station as part of a study of human development in microgravity.
Here are just a few ways organoids are revealing new insights:
3D 'Assembloid' Shows How SARS-CoV-2 Infects Brain Cells
How a Single Gene Alteration May Have Separated Modern Humans from Predecessors
Lab-Grown Human Brain Organoids Mimic an Autism Spectrum Disorder, Help Test Treatments
Machine Learning Algorithm Can't Distinguish These Lab Mini-Brains from Preemie Babies
How Loss of Single Gene Fuels Deadly Childhood Brain Cancer
2019: A Space Organoid
Study to Explore Whether Cannabis Compound Eases Severe Symptoms of Autism
Building a Better Brain-in-a-Dish, Faster and Cheaper
Novel Stem Cell-Derived Model Created of Inflammatory Neurological Disorder
Inflamed Support Cells Appear to Contribute to Some Kinds of Autism
Brazilian Zika Virus Strain Causes Birth Defects in Experimental Models
Building Mini-Brains to Study Disorders Caused by HIV and Meth Use
Human Lung and Brain Organoids Respond Differently to SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Lab Tests
Study: E-Cigarettes Trigger Inflammation in the Gut
Human Gut-in-a-Dish Model Helps Define 'Leaky Gut,' and Outline a Pathway to Treatment
Editing Genes One by One Throughout Colorectal Cancer Cell Genome Uncovers New Drug Targets
Personalized "Eye-in-a-Dish" Models Reveal Genetic Underpinnings of Macular Degeneration
Cross-section of organoid infected by Zika virus. Cortical progenitor cells are red, neurons are green, cell nuclei are blue. Credit: Alysson Muotri, UC San Diego.
Organoids in a Petri dish. Credit: Alysson Muotri, UC San Diego.
Alysson Muotri, PhD
Organoid model of autism spectrum disorder. Credit: Alysson Muotri, UC San Diego.
Organoid self-organizing. Neural progenitor cells are green, cortical layer neurons are red, cell nuclei are depicted in blue. Credit: Cleber A. Trujillo, UC San Diego.