Establishing the genetic make-up of each cells of organoids

They are excellent research models for testing nutrients from feed, for example: mini-organs that are grown from animal stem cells. “Organoids” do not always contain all the types of cells that are present in the original tissue. This is why research associates from Wageningen University & Research are discovering what cell types might be still missing.

What is still missing and how can we reproduce the original tissue even better?
Martien Groenen

“With organoids we can study the effect of feed on the intestines, for example. We can also see whether animals are sensitive to particular bacteria or viruses,” says Professor of Animal Breeding and Genomics Martien Groenen. “Organoids are good research models which means that we will need less animal testing in the future. But in practice, for a specific tissue, we need to evaluate whether every type of cell is present in organoids. This is why we compare mini-organs to the original tissue: what is still missing and how can we reproduce the original tissue even better?”

We can better understand how to improve the function of immune cells through feed, for example.
Coen Govers

Growing immune and intestine cells

Coen Govers from the Cell Biology and Immunology chair group is working on growing immune cells and intestine cells in culture simultaneously. “It is essential to add immune cells to organoids as these cells patrol the organs continuously and therefore form an important part of the organ itself and contribute to the overall function,” says Govers. “Immune cells are focused on fighting infection or clearing out dead cells. With an immune-competent intestine model, we can better understand how we can improve the function of these immune cells through feed, for example.”

Mimicking the natural tissue of the animal

According to Groenen, the research will ultimately contribute to making organoids that are even more like the natural tissue of the animal. “It will allow us to help feed companies to make even healthier animal feed, for example. For animal breeding it is important to detect genetic differences in susceptibility to bacteria and viruses and use it for selection within a population.”