Creating Mini-Organs with Blood Vessels
The VASCULOID project aims to engineer intestinal mini-organs with blood vessels as a next step towards engineering organs in the lab. For this purpose a public private partnership has been established that combines fundamental knowledge in vascular and organoid biology (UMCU) with an expertise in engineering ‘microfluidic’devices (AIM Biotech).
With a growing elderly population and a western lifestyle the need for replacing or repairing diseased organs becomes an increasing burden on society. For example, Inflammatory Bowel Disease is on the rise, leading to very high costs for medical care that have been estimated at 14,6-31,6 billion dollars annually in the US. A promising potential therapy is to transplant intestinal organoids (mini-organs) to repair or replace damaged cells in patients suffering from intestinal damage. Experimental studies in mice show promising results for such a strategy. However organoids currently do not have blood vessels, which are crucial for transplanted cells to survive to repair or replace an organ.
Therefore, VASCULOID will grow intestinal organoids together with blood vessel cells. For this, AIM Biotech will develop microfluidic devices, which are small devices that contain channels in which the cells can be grown. The size and shape of these channels will mimic physiological stimuli to make blood vessels grow as tubes like they do in the body. Novel microfluidic devices will be developed that allow optimal growth conditions both for blood vessels and organoids.
VASCULOID has established a method to culture organoids with a functional vasculature. This was enabled by using a novel microfluidic device, which is particularly effective in developing lumeniSed blood vessels. They found that blood vessels affect stemness and growth of organoids due to angiocrine signaling. The development of vascularised organoids is a crucial step in the development of artificial organs for replacement or repair therapy