What I’m reading: Stem cell faculty member Amy Firth offers a top pick

Amy Ryan (Firth) (Photo by Cristy Lytal)
Amy Ryan (Firth) (Photo by Cristy Lytal)

To understand organ development, maintenance and repair, and to model disease, tissue engineering can enable unique experimental approaches. In a recent study in the journal Biomaterials, Daniel Tschumerplin’s laboratory at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, grew a mix of fluorescently tagged human lung cells in a semi-solid matrix.

Over a period of four weeks, the cells differentiated to generate three-dimensional multicellular airway structures known as “organoids,” which recapitulated limited aspects of lung development. This study revealed some specific lung development requirements, including a niche enabling self-organization of the cells and signals from a group of molecules known as the yes-associated kinase (YAP) pathway triggering proper differentiation.

By facilitating the study of physiologic and pathologic cell-cell interactions, organoids are having a significant impact on understanding disease related changes not only in the lung but also in the kidney, brain and a variety of other organs.