Enhanced robotic capabilities are driving innovation in all sectors of healthcare research, but the University of Washington has developed an automated system to increase the speed and accuracy of their stem cell research using robots to grow mini-organs.
As you know, stem cells are the building blocks of all organs and can be used to grow them in labs, but can also be used to make mini-organs or organoids made specifically to analyze diseases and test new procedures and medications on.
Traditionally, using stem cells to grow organoids was a full day’s job that required a scientist’s full attention. UW’s robotic approach takes 20 minutes and is fully automated.
HOW CAN ROBOTS MAKE ORGANOIDS?
Essentially, growing organoids is accomplished by distributing stem cells in liquid across a number of plates manually, with a researcher taking extreme care to make sure each proportion is correct.
UW’s process leaves this task entirely to machines which are able to distribute the liquid stem cells into plates with up to 384 microwells before coaxing them into the desired mini-organ over a month.
By using an automated system, UW’s process is both much faster than the manual method and eliminates the risk of human error. Even highly educated scientists get tired or distracted and make mistakes.
“Ordinarily, just setting up an experiment of this magnitude would take a researcher all day, while the robot can do it in 20 minutes,” UW professor Benjamin Freedman told ScienceDaily. “On top of that, the robot doesn’t get tired and make mistakes. There’s no question. For repetitive, tedious tasks like this, robots do a better job than humans.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR STEM CELL RESEARCH?
While organoids are an extremely valuable tool for pharmaceutical and stem cell research, the extensive work required to grow them made mass production impossible. While UW’s swift new process is just a first step, it does open the door for further advances towards mini-organ mass production in the coming years.
However, more than just allowing for mass production of organoids, robots also allow for greater ability to analyze them and create improved specimens. For instance, in UW’s study, researchers were able to discover a root cause of polycystic kidney disease because their robots were able to create more accurate specimens than ever before.
“These findings give us a better idea of the nature of these organoids and provide a baseline from which we can make improvements,” Freedman said. “The value of this high-throughput platform is that we can now alter our procedure at any point, in many different ways, and quickly see which of these changes produces a better result.”
RegenerVate doesn’t use robots to treat your chronic joint and muscle pain. Our highly trained staff and physicians are eager to harness the power of your own body’s stem cells to repair its damaged tissue.