“We have moved away from studying human disease in humans… The problem is that it hasn’t worked, and it’s time we stopped dancing around the problem… We need to refocus and adapt new methodologies for use in humans to understand disease biology in humans.” - Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Former Director, U.S. National Institutes of Health
The biomedical research and development pipeline begins with hypothesis-driven study of fundamental biological processes in health and disease. According to the Canadian Council on Animal Care, of the 4.4 million+ research animals used in Canada annually, 40-60% is for “studies of a fundamental nature in science”. Therefore, it is important to develop and promote integrative human-based frameworks to study human biological complexity, to serve as the primary research platform from which fundamental discoveries are launched.
Disease-in-a-Dish: human biology in vitro
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) derived from adult patients offer a scientifically rigorous approach to model human biology in vitro while overcoming the scientific and ethical issues associated with animal experimentation. To date, a large number of tissue-specific iPSC derivatives have been generated (e.g., liver, heart, neurons, kidney etc.). However, most iPSC-based disease models are primarily limited to one cell/tissue type, offering little information on multiple cellular effects and inter-organ interactions. In order to increase the utility and versatility as a platform for disease development and drug testing, it is therefore imperative to mimic inter-organ interactions akin to the human body.
Using the Quasi-Vivo tissue culture apparatus, we will develop and validate interconnected multi-tissue systems that will enable us to mimic physiologically relevant inter-organ interactions akin to the human body. We will initially focus on emerging methods using adult human stem cell-derived artificial organs, called organoids.
From genes to systems biology, human-based integrative platforms to study human biological complexity.