Beno Freedman, Ph.D., says that the human system is a "black box"—researchers have no way of knowing what's going on inside until they get in and see it up close. That's why, Freedman says, organoids have had a profound effect on our understanding of human biology—particularly in his field, regenerative medicine.
As in vitro models that mimic in vivo conditions, stem cell organoid disease models have helped Freedman and his lab at the University of Washington create biological scenarios that could someday crack the code on organ regeneration.
"You can genome-engineer cells so that they have any type of genetic composition you want," Freedman said. "You can essentially create forms of life that don't naturally occur and use that to test out why certain genes are there."
Doing so has helped the Freedman Lab uncover new insights on the frontiers of nephrology. The team recently discovered a role for an essential pathway in human kidney development that they hadn't noticed before.
That's just one example of how organoids can help researchers crack open the black box of disease pathologies to discover possible regenerative solutions. Organoids offer promise for virtually every organ in the human system, but the kidney is especially dear to Freedman. After watching his uncle battle kidney disease, he saw the need to improve nephrology with organoid models.