Organoids are tiny, three-dimensional tissue structures resembling miniature versions of potentially any organ or tissue in our body, which can be grown from stem cells. As described in the HCA Whitepaper, these structures “reflect key properties of organs such as kidney, lung, gut, brain, or retina. Both healthy and disease tissues can be converted into organoids, and thus organoid technology can be applied to model human organ development, physiology and various human pathologies ‘in a dish’.”
Organoid technology was first established by the group of Hans Clevers, who is also member of the HCA|Organoid research team, by cultivating adult stem cells from the human intestine and colon. It has since become a central technology to generate clinical and biologically relevant human models. The breakthrough of the technology lies in the fact that it makes it possible to establish human models of virtually all epithelial organs and in large numbers of patients and healthy individuals based on primary tissue.
Researchers use organoids to better understand the development and complex microanatomy of our organs. Thus, organoids are models for assessing the changes that take place in our cells and can for instance be used to better screen and predict drug response. Furthermore, organoids are a technology that makes human tissue amenable to manipulation, which is key to unravel molecular mechanisms of human health and disease.
By providing single‐cell maps for colon and brain organoids and initiating a first “Organoid Cell Atlas”, HCA|Organoid will lay the foundation for many types of research in human organoids that are otherwise restricted to non‐human model organisms. The research done within the project will thus significantly enhance our understanding of the molecular basis of our cells, ultimately resulting in a deeper understanding of the mechanisms underlying human health and disease.