New lung "organoids"--tiny 3-D structures that mimic features of a full-sized lung--have been created from human pluripotent stem cells by researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). The team used the organoids to generate models of human lung diseases in a lab dish, models that could be used to advance our understanding of a variety of respiratory diseases. A paper detailing the discovery was published online on April 24, 2017 in Nature Cell Biology. The article is titled “A Three-Dimensional Model of Human Lung Development and Disease from Pluripotent Stem Cells.” Organoids are 3-D structures containing multiple cell types that look and function like a full-sized organ. By reproducing an organ in a dish, researchers hope to develop better models of human diseases, and find new ways of testing drugs and regenerating damaged tissue. "Researchers have taken up the challenge of creating organoids to help us understand and treat a variety of diseases," said Hans-Willem Snoeck, PhD, Professor of Medicine (in Microbiology & Immunology) at CUMC and lead investigator of the study. "But we have been tested by our limited ability to create organoids that can replicate key features of human disease." The lung organoids created in Dr. Snoeck's lab are the first to include branching airway and alveolar structures, similar to those in human lungs. To demonstrate their functionality, the researchers showed that the organoids reacted in much the same way as a real lung does when infected with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
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