Picture this: You walk into a lab and find these slimy-looking, colorful blobs sitting in petri dishes. You get closer. Closer. The blobs take shape; they are livers, kidneys, and brains. Rows of organs and not just any organs—YOUR organs.
Crazy, isn’t it?
Crazier still is the fact that what I’m describing isn’t an over-dramatic scene in a Sci-fi movie. This is real life.
According to a June 2016 article in The Atlantic, “organoids” are the newest thing in the medical world. Grown from stem cells in laboratories, these individualized 3-D cell blobs not only resemble the person in question’s organ, but they accurately reflect all its complexities and mutations.
That means if you have a rare disease mutation manifesting in your stomach, your pal, the Organoid, will reflect that.
Needless to say, for mutagen-based diseases like cystic fibrosis (CF), this is a major development, and here’s why…
Rather than testing treatment response with good old trial-and-error, kids with CF have their associated organs—in this case, with cells harvested from rectums—replicated in organoids. The process is painless, and these organoids then sit in the lab and go through whatever treatment regimen the patients are considering.
In The Atlantic’s article, they followed how organoids responded to Kalydeco, a breakthrough CF injection that came to market not too long ago. What’s encouraging is that, sure enough, when the organoids reacted well to Kalydeco, it turned out the kids did, too!
Granted, this is a small study, but with BIG results.
I’m optimistic about how this technology will develop in the future to make personalized treatment regimens more effective and less traumatic.
We’re truly in an age where the line between science and fiction is blurred. Now, let’s hope that line falls more on the Star Trek-side, and less on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers.