Use of organoid in oncology: an essential tool for targeted therapies ~ Prof Antonio Giordano

The ethical problem of cells of embryonic origin

A substantial amount of scientific research has been done in support of the use of animal models to study physiological or pathological processes in living organisms. The development of ‘organoids’ is one aspect of such scientific research. Organoids are three-dimensional structures, which resemble the structure of any particular organ and can be used as preclinical models for oncological therapies. Although they are made with three-dimensional layers of cells different from the classic cell lines, they are grown two-dimensionally.

Areolar connective tissue under the microscope view. Histological for human physiology. Source Canva, Artist 'tonaquatic'

These organoids can derive from a particular tissue or from embryonic stem cells. Their structure has features similar to the real organ; for example – a liver organoid can be formed from the cell types present in the liver. In addition, organoids can perform the same functions as the organ they resemble. For example – a brain organoid may have electrical activity between neurons.

However, since they are not real organs, they might lack some more complex elements and functions.

In the biomedical and oncological fields, they prove to be “important tools” to investigate both neurovegetative and oncological diseases.

This opens doors for researchers to study how to intervene in a “specific” way by identifying novel targets.

In particular, cerebral Organoids, generated from pluripotent stem cells, can help in recapitulating not only the heterogeneity of genetic codes but also the histological complexity of the tumor. Such a feature can provide researchers with a “defined framework” to treat the disease.

In genetics, Organoids are used for the treatment of fragile X syndrome and used to detect pharmacological toxicity. Hopefully, in the future, researchers will be able to use Organoids for transplants, where there is often a risk of rejection of the organs in patients.

The possibility of deriving Organoids from human cells makes them safer and more compatible than those derived from animals. However, the Organoids derived from organs (the brain, the liver, etc.), even though they resemble the histology of the organ, can still lack of a specific “architecture” or dimensions of the real organ.

Excessive use of human embryonic cells in order to develop organoids poses a significant ethical problem and this is something scientific research has to come to terms with.

The above article was first published in La Voce Di New York by Professor Antonio Giordano, click here to read.

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