Scientists have developed a robotic system to automate the production of human mini-organs derived from stem cells.

This new system was developed by researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

According to Benjamin Freedman, lead researcher on the project, the advance promises to greatly expand the use of mini-organs in basic research and drug discovery.

“This is a new ‘secret weapon’ in our fight against disease,” said Freedman.

The traditional way to grow cells for biomedical research, Freeman explained, is to culture them as flat, two-dimensional sheets, which are overly simplistic.

Although similar approaches have been successful with adult stem cells, this is the first report of successfully automating the manufacture of organoids from pluripotent stem cells; a cell type that is versatile and capable of becoming any type of organ.

“Ordinarily, just setting up an experiment of this magnitude would take a researcher all day, while the robot can do it in 20 minutes,” said Freedman.

“On top of that, the robot doesn’t get tired and make mistakes. There’s no question. For repetitive, tedious tasks like this, robots do a better job than humans.

“We established that these organoids do resemble developing kidneys, but also that they contain non-kidney cells that had not previously been characterised in these cultures.

“These findings give us a better idea of the nature of these organoids and provide a baseline from which we can make improvements.

“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.”



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