New Models of Disease and Development

How are human cell-based tools reshaping disease modeling?

In biomedical research, creating accurate models of human disease and development has historically posed challenges. Traditional methods relying on animal models, especially mice, come with experimental and ethical limitations, as many human diseases are absent in non-human animals. The pursuit of therapies through animal models (in vivo research) and the use of human cells outside the body (in vitro research) have drawbacks.

Our project explores the wave of innovative new tools made of human cells that is reshaping this landscape. Our project delves into how cell-based technologies are transforming the search for human-specific disease and development models. One breakthrough we examine is the creation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), offering the ability to generate various human cell types from both diseased patients and healthy individuals.

Our exploration unfolds in two key areas. First, we investigate the production of ‘organoids’ – three-dimensional structures mimicking human organs. Organoids present novel opportunities for disease modeling that surpass the limitations of animal models, addressing concerns about their relevance to humans. Second, we explore the creation of interspecies mammalian chimeras using human induced pluripotent stem cells, involving the transfer of human cellular material to animals like pigs. This technique replaces portions of animal tissues or organs with human biological counterparts.