The scarcity of organs and tissues for transplant and the need of immunosuppressive drugs to avoid organ rejection has pushed the research for artificial organs. Biomedical research has developed extensively today with the use of advanced biomaterials and engineering techniques. Superior cell and tissue culture supplies have made it possible to develop a human tissue slice into an organ in the laboratory. For instance, recently, the biomedical engineering team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created a ‘miniature human liver on a dish’, which can help in studying liver diseases caused by human-specific pathogens.
3D Miniature Organs Evolve with Advanced Cell and Tissue Culture Media
Advanced cell and tissue culture medium helps the ex vivo expansion of cells – the process of growing living cells artificially under controlled laboratory conditions of nutrition, humidity, and temperature. For a very long time, it had been impossible for scientists to mimic the cellular arrangement within extracellular matrix in the laboratory. The structures of organs such as the kidneys and the liver are very complex, as they contain an intricate network of many different cell subtypes. Though the replication of natural structure of the extracellular matrix is difficult, advanced media, reagents, and sera can help the researchers up to some extent.
The culture systems so far developed in the laboratories lack the multi-layered nature of real organs, which affects the behavior of cells within a tissue to a large extent. With the help of specialized materials and cell-printing processes, researchers are attempting to build 3D systems that are physiologically more accurate than conventional cultures in petri-dishes. Taking things a step further, scientists are focusing on building 3D miniature versions of hearts, lungs, and other organs.
Latest Developments in Cell and Tissue Culture Supplies to Suit Requirements for Cellular Growth and Organ Formation
Much effort has been put into the development of appropriate cell and tissue culture media to ensure the growth of the cells and organ formation. A growth medium for mammalian cells needs to provide the necessary nutrients such as salts, vitamins, amino acids, and other compounds required for cellular growth and organ formation. Certain recent developments in cell culture media are as follows:
Serum-free media: The basic media are usually supplemented with around 5-10% serum, to protect cells from sheer stress. However, nowadays, serum-free media are developed to reduce the chances of virus contamination. In serum-free media, serum is substituted by adding insulin, ethanol amine, transferin, or albumin as an adherence factor.
Protein-free media: In protein-free media, the animal derived proteins are replaced by iron salts, lipid concentrates, precursors or other stimulating agents such as fatty acids, hormones, and vitamins.
Bioreactors have been helping researchers for long in protecting the cells from stressful conditions. Used to emulate biologically relevant forces such as blood flow, traditional bioreactors have been costly and bulky. Scientists have now developed techniques and tools to direct liquids through tiny valves, pumps, and channels. Though still at a nascent stage, the organ-on-a-chip system will be able to interconnect miniature organs. In February last year, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University was able to build an automated system that kept a ten-organ chip alive and functional for over a week.
The potential of artificial organs has revolutionized biomedical research. Further developments in the field are expected to be directly dependent on the superior quality of cell and tissue culture supplies to mimic the environment inside the human body. Once considered as science fiction, it would be interesting to see successful transplantation of lab-grown complex organs into human bodies in the near future.