Developing organoids for livestock research

In this project researchers develop organoids to study animal nutrition and health. An organoid is a tiny, simplified version of an organ derived from stem cells. They replicate much of the complexity of an organ and replace some animal experiments.

After a decade of research on human organoids, these organoids have already achieved a lot in nutritional and pharmaceutical research and they are also instrumental in diagnostics and even clinical treatment. In organoid research for animal nutrition and health studies, researchers build on knowledge gained from the human field.

Livestock organoids help to answer research questions in animal breeding and animal nutrition. The researchers are, for instance, interested in the question why some pigs use feed more efficiently than other pigs, a quite complex trait of an animal. One of the aims is to identify differences between individual animals in these complex trait. The organoids are also useful to test specific ingredients of animal feed and in the future they might also be valuable for questions on animal health and pharmaceutics.

Progress (September 2022)

Since 2021 the researchers are able to produce pig intestinal organoids. Researchers from Wageningen University & Research and external researchers can use these organoids for their research. The team continues its work with organs and from other organoids and other animals.

The researchers are also working on other improvements. An organoid now contains one type of cell derived from adult stem cells. These are programmed to proliferate and differentiate into their own lineages. In the coming years the researchers intend to study mixing and matching different cell lineages, for example an epithelial layer (intestinal cells in contact with food) with the immune cells. A system like this can be used to understand host-microbe interactions or diet-host interactions.