Cyborg Organoids For Viewing Early Stages Of Organ Development
What does happen in the early days of organ development? How do cells or tissues organize to become a heart, a brain, kidney or any other organ? This critical period of organ development has long remained the black box of developmental biology. This was because no sensor was small or flexible enough to observe this process without damaging the cells and tissues. Here comes the importance of Cyborg organoids!
Scientists from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) grew simplified organs known as organoids with fully integrated sensors to monitor the organ development. These are called as cyborg organoids. The Cyborg organoids with sensors offer a rare glimpse into the early stages of organ development.
Jia Liu, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at SEAS and senior author of the cyborg organoids study, said that she was so inspired by the natural organ development process in high school, in which 3-D organs start from few cells in 2-D structures. With the development of nanoelectronics that is so flexible, stretchable, soft and that can grow together with developing tissue through their natural development process, the embedded sensors in them can measure the entire activity of the organ developmental process. Now, the end result of the work was a piece of tissue with a nanoscale device completely distributed and integrated across the entire three-dimensional volume of the tissue.
Cyborg organoids reveal Early stages of organ development
This type of device with sensors emerges from the research work that Liu began as a graduate student in the lab of Charles M Lieber, The Joshua and Beth Friedman University Professor. Liu during her research once developed flexible, mesh-like nanoelectronics that could be injected in specific regions of tissue.
Building on that particular design, Liu and his colleagues increased the stretchability of the nanoelectronics by changing the shape of the mesh from straight lines to serpentine structures which are similar kinds of structures used in wearable electronics. The team then transferred the mesh nanoelectronics onto a 2-D sheet of stem cells. Here the cells are covered and interwoven with the nanoelectronics with the help of cell-cell attraction forces. The stem cells then began to morph into a 3-D structure and the embedded nanoelectronics seamlessly reconfigured themselves along with the cells, resulting in fully-grown 3-D organoids with embedded sensors.
The research findings on Cyborg organoids offering a rare view of early stages of the organ development were published in Nano Letters.
The stem cells were then differentiated into cardiomyocytes i.e, heart cells and the scientists were able to monitor as well as record the electrophysiological activity for about 90 days.
This method of Cyborg organoids allows to continuously monitor the developmental process and understand how the dynamics of individual cells start to interact and synchronize during the entire organ developmental process said, Liu. He added, that it could be used to turn any organoid into cyborg organoids including complex organs like brain and pancreas organoids.
In addition to Cyborg organoids revealing Early stages of organ development and helping to find the answer fundamental questions about cells, tissues in biology, cyborg organoids could be used to test and monitor patient-specific drug treatment. They can even be potentially used for transplantations.