In DepthDevelopmental Biology

Mini-livers reveal fine details of organ development

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Science  16 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6343, pp. 1109
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6343.1109

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Put a smidgen of stem cells into a 3D culture medium and nurture them carefully, and they may grow into something eerily like a miniature organ—brain, heart, liver, gut—with layers of differentiated cells and even glimmerings of function. Now, researchers are starting to tease apart the molecular interactions that govern their development, and that of the real organs they mimic. With a cell-by-cell assessment of gene activity they are monitoring how precursor cells shape and organize themselves into something loosely resembling a functioning liver. The work also speaks to a new direction in organoid research, in which single-cell RNA sequencing provides a detailed look at the cross-talk between the different cell types involved. The work shows these organoids mimic fetal development.