Pancreatic Organoids Grown Inside Synthetic Gel


MIT researchers have devised a method for growing organoids from both healthy and malignant pancreatic tissue using a synthetic gel that closely resembles the extracellular environment of the pancreas.

The synthetic gel is more constant from batch to batch than naturally generated materials, resulting in more repeatable and predictable results for growing organoids. The MIT researchers anticipate that the method will help progress pancreatic and other organoid studies.

Malignant pancreatic tissues are difficult to cultivate and examine in the lab because they lose their cancerous properties fast. Given the terrible prognosis of pancreatic cancer, tissue culture models that efficiently mimic the cancer in the lab would be extremely beneficial in acquiring a mechanistic knowledge of the disease and developing new treatments.

Organoids are a fascinating technique to research tissues. They resemble tissues in the body considerably better than basic cell monolayers grown on tissue culture plastic because of their self-assembly and three-dimensional form. Organoids, on the other hand, aren’t always easy to develop.

Controlling the environment in which these tissue samples are grown is crucial, especially if the results are to be trustworthy and repeatable. Natural materials utilized to replicate the tissue milieu for such tissue culture systems, on the other hand, are frequently sourced from mice tumors and can contain unwanted chemicals. They can also differ from batch to batch, making it difficult to repeat tests.

“Reproducibility is a huge issue,” said Linda Griffith, one of the study’s researchers. “The research community has been seeking for ways to undertake more methodical cultures of these kinds of organoids, particularly in terms of controlling the microenvironment,” says the author. The researchers created a gel that is made up of polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is routinely used in medicine, and extracellular matrix components like integrins, which allow cells in the gel to adhere to it.

The MIT team has so far tested the novel technique on both malignant and healthy pancreatic cells in mice, and has been able to produce pancreatic organoids using either kind of cell. Researchers may be able to study pancreatic cancer in more depth with this technology, as well as test potential medicines in a more realistic disease setting.

Pancreatic Organoids Grown Inside Synthetic Gel

Supportive cells grown using the new system, including fibroblasts (green) and macrophages (orange) surrounding pancreatic organoids. Credit: Joanna Kelly and Christopher Below

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