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Growing human organs in the lab

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Imagine yourself inside a clinical laboratory. In the corner, you spot a small petri dish. Atop it rests a curious kind of tissue sample. What you see before you is essentially a tiny pancreas. To be exact, it’s a pancreatic organoid. Unlike ordinary tissue samples that are extracted from a patient’s body, this miniature organ was grown here in the lab.

This pancreas has never been inside a person. Instead, it was harvested using cells taken from a pancreatic cancer patient. The organoid can provide unprecedented insight into the patient’s cancer case. It might tell us which chemotherapy treatments will work best for them. Someday, it may even be grown into a full-sized pancreas for an organ transplant. This is not something out of the latest David Cronenberg film. It’s a real biomedical breakthrough now making its way from research labs to clinics. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is an early pioneer of organoid research. In fact, the institution runs one of our country’s largest cancer organoid facilities.

On June 2, Dr. James Wells of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital came to CSHL to speak about “using organoids to understand human disease and discover new therapeutics.” Dr. Wells delivered the 44th annual Dorcas Cummings Memorial Lecture, held in conjunction with the 87th annual CSHL Symposium. The lecture, part of CSHL’s Meetings & Courses Program, provides our local community the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge research from a biomedical expert. Press play to hear more about organoids from this year’s featured speaker, Dr. James Wells.