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Lab-Grown Mini Organs to Speed Up Disease Treatments

Miniature, lab-created human organs to fast-track new disease treatments: Creating tiny, laboratory grown organs is one of the latest developments in the search for new personalised medical treatments — and a new Curtin University-led project is looking to enhance this
breakthrough’s real-world impact.

‘Organoids’ are miniature human organs grown in laboratories using a patient’s own cells, which allow researchers to learn about diseases and test potential therapies facilitating truly personalised care for patients.

Curtin researchers aim to use cutting edge technology to make organoid research more effective and efficient, with the creation of the Western Australian Organoid Innovation Hub (WAOIH) thanks to more than $500,000 from the WA Government’s Future Health Research and Innovation (FHRI) Fund – Enabling Scheme.

The WAOIH will be based at the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute and will use advanced technology to take images of the organoids, with the team using machine learning for quick and accurate image analysis.

The FHRI grant will see upgrades to equipment, which study lead Dr Ben Dwyer said would allow the Hub to capitalise on the growing momentum surrounding organoid research and significantly enhance the current liver cancer organoid program’s capabilities.

“Organoids can mimic real human organs better than traditional cell cultures, so they’re excellent models for studying human biology and disease,” Dr Dwyer said.

“We currently use organoids in the context of liver cancer to better understand disease mechanisms to develop new treatments, and also for large scale screening experiments to repurpose approved compounds for use in cancer treatment.

“Because they’re made from a patient’s own cells, organoids can also be used to determine which treatments are most likely to be effective or may result in side effects for that specific patient, paving the way for personalized medicine.”

Dr Dwyer said since establishing a liver cancer platform, there is significant demand to apply this emerging technology and expertise to a broader range of diseases and cancers.

“Being able to automate our imaging and liquid handling equipment will allow the WAOIH to work faster and conduct more experiments at once,” he said.

“This will allow us to broaden our scope of research.

“Collaborating with the National Drug Discovery Centre in Melbourne and the Human Organoid Innovation Hub in Calgary, Canada also offers access to national screening programs and partnerships with global experts, which will enhance the international impact of WAOIH’s work developing new treatments.”

CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Other partners include the Cancer Research Trust, Perkins Cancer Biobank, Australian Centre for RNA
Therapeutics in Cancer, Cell and Tissue Therapies WA and the WA Data Science Innovation Hub based at Curtin.

The WAOIH evolved from the Patient-Derived Organoid Drug Screening Platform of the Liver Cancer Collaborative established in 2021, which expanded thanks to previous funding from the Ian Potter Foundation, Minderoo Foundation, Charlies Foundation, McCusker Foundation and WA Department of Health.

“These latest developments will help the WAOIH position WA as a leader in innovative drug discovery, creating a state-of-the-art pipeline to provide personalised, precision medicine to patients across the world,” Dr Dwyer said

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