When being treated for serious illnesses, many patients will suffer side effects from their medication, and it’s not always possible to predict how the body will react, or how effective treatment will be. By taking a sample of stem cells, researchers at University Medical Centre Utrecht have been able to grow ‘mini organs’ known as organoids. They can then test different drug combinations on these organoids, and see how they react.
These experiments give doctors a much clearer picture of how effective certain treatments will be. It means that they don’t have to rely on the results of clinical trials, and can personalise medicine to each patient’s needs. This is especially helpful in cases of Cystic Fibrosis, where there often aren’t enough patients to carry out effective studies.
So far, doctors in the Netherlands have treated 1,500 patients with this technique, and have successfully helped many cystic fibrosis sufferers. It’s also beginning to be utilised in cancer cases.
Only one biopsy is needed to harvest the stem cells, and the same sample can be used over and over, which means fewer tests for the patient. Not only can they build one organoid and run tests, but researchers can build an entire mini-system to see how different organs might react to various medicines.
Professor Dr Kors van der Ent, who is heading the research, told the Daily Express “Some of these patients were waiting for lung transplants, but can now be found on the hockey pitch again thanks to the right medication. Their lives have completely changed.”
This news again shows the potential that stem cells have to treat diseases, and give patients a better quality of life.