Advances in organoid research showcased

Organoids Are Us 2019 was a one-day symposium held at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute to highlight game changing advances to science and medicine made through organoid research.

First described by the Clevers Laboratory, it has been demonstrated that some tissue stem cells can be coerced into forming mini-replicas of tissues, termed ‘organoids’, meaning ‘organ-like’. Organoids can be readily manipulated, genetically or pharmacologically, to understand what makes a stem cell be a stem cell, and what changes occur in normal cells to make them become cancer cells.

This symposium follows on from the first Organoids Are Us symposium held at the Doherty Institute in 2018. International, interstate and local researchers, clinicians and medical scientists using organoids delivered talks on advances in stem cell, cancer, bioengineering, diagnostics and public health; and, the new frontier for organoid technology, modelling infectious disease.

The labs of Dr Tokameh Mahmoudi, one of the symposiums keynote speakers, and Hans Clever have established novel models of natural infection of liver and lung organoids. These models will advance our understanding of pathogen entry and the control or prevention of infection. Furthermore, organoids can be established from patient-derived tumours for anti-cancer drug pre-screening, enabling personalise therapy.

Tokameh Mahmoudi also presented work on early markers of liver cancer, while the second keynote speaker, Professor Rob Ramsay, from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre demonstrated the utility of organoids in understanding immune response to tumour cells.

Professor Peter Gibbs, joint division head of Personalised Oncology at WEHI, provided an update on Australia’s advances to introducing ‘organoid’ testing to pre-screen a patient’s response to anti-cancer drugs.

The symposium was attended by 190 delegates from diverse backgrounds and was generously supported by Scientifix, Corning, STEMCELL Technologies, RastrumInventia, Geneworks, TrendBio, GE Health, the Centre for Stem Cell Systems and the ARC Centre for Personalised Therapeutics Technologies (University of Melbourne).

Organoids Are Us 2019 was supported by the Centre for Stem Cell Systems.

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Prof Elizabeth Vinvan