New Robotic System Automatically Grows Tiny Organs in Plates


A doctor doing a research. / Photo by: Getty Images


Growing mini-organs or organoids are done using stem cells. However, the process cannot meet the requirements of mass production. To address the said issue, researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine managed to create a robotic system to quickly produce organoids from stem cells -- a method that may prove to be useful in fighting diseases.

Robotic System that Grows Mini-Organs

Producing organoids from cells are needed nowadays to assist medical researchers to study diseases and find ways to treat them. With the vast number of diseases and required tests to determine effects of possible treatments, researchers need a cost-effective and steady supply of organoids.

A study conducted by scientists at UW Medicine unlocked a new technique for producing tiny organs that may solve this obstacle for medical experts. They used an automated robotic system to grow organoids from adult stem cells, and these cells can become any type of organ.

In the study, the scientists applied a unique process that included the introduction of stem cells into plates. Each plate has 384 miniature wells to hold the stem cells. For 21 days, the researchers induced the cells to become kidney organoids. The robotic system automatically produces as many plates as possible to grow organoids, and with the speed of the system, about thousands of organoids are produced per plate.

A single researcher typically needs 24 hours to produce a similar volume of organoids. But the robot system can do it within 20 minutes. Also, the system does not suffer from fatigue or mistakes, which would occur with a human being.

"The value of this high-throughput platform is that we can now alter our procedure at any point, in many different ways, and quickly see which of these changes produces a better result," said Benjamin Freedman, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at UW Medicine.

The kidney organoids are not viable for organ transplantation but the produced organoids are enough for scientists to study how diseases work and how drugs interact with it. The technology remains a helpful tool for clinicians and pharmacists in developing new treatments.