Lab-grown mini-placenta 'organoid' provides insight into how the placenta grows and what happens when it fails
Over recent years there’s been an explosion of organoids – three-dimensional miniature organs grown in the lab, which mimic many of the properties of the tissue they originally came from and are a better model for human biology than cells growing in a flat plastic dish. So far organoids have been grown from brain, stomach, kidney, gut and more, and now there’s a new kid on the organoid block. This cluster of brightly-coloured blobs is a ‘mini-placenta’, more formally known as a trophoblast organoid, grown from cells isolated from human placenta. It’s very difficult to study the earliest interactions between a human foetus and its placenta for obvious technical and ethical reasons, but animal placentas aren’t similar enough to our own species. These new organoids will provide vital insights into how the placenta grows and what happens when it fails, leading to miscarriage or other serious problems for mother and child.
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