New plant-based gel to fast-track ‘mini-organs’ development, enhance most cancers remedy

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– Researchers at Monash University have developed the world’s first bioactive plant-based nanocellulose hydrogel that supports the growth of organoids for biomedical applications. This includes the development and treatment of cancer.

  • Nanocellulose gels cost a fraction of the price compared to the current gold standard.
  • These hydrogels are vegetable and animal-free and can mimic the conditions of the human body on a bowl.

Monash University researchers have developed the world’s first bioactive plant-based nanocellulose hydrogel that supports the growth of organoids and helps significantly reduce the cost of cancer and COVID-19 studies.

This discovery by researchers at BioPRIA (Bioresource Processing Institute of Australia), the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University and the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute will develop organoids cheaper, faster and more ethically.

The hydrogel can also improve drug screening and disease modeling in infectious diseases such as COVID-19. Metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes; and cancer.

The results, published in Advanced Science, are an encouraging finding for organoid growth for important laboratory tests around the world. With additional testing, this hydrogel could be available to researchers and health professionals around the world in less than 12 months.

Nanocellulose gels cost only cents per 10 ml compared to $ 600 or more for the current gold standard.

Nanocellulose gels in particular are based entirely on plants and thus prevent the removal of animal organs and unknown biomolecules for advanced medical tests.

Professor Gil Garnier and Dr. Rodrigo Curvello of BioPRIA from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University led the study.

“Organoids provide a robust model for key applications in biomedicine, including drug screening and disease modeling. However, current approaches remain expensive, biochemically variable, and undefined,” said Professor Garnier, Director of BioPRIA.

“These are major barriers to basic research studies and the transfer of organoids to clinics. Alternative matrices that can sustain organoid systems are needed to dramatically reduce costs and eliminate the unreliability of unknown biomolecules.

“Since nanocellulose hydrogel is animal-free, its composition – in contrast to current progress – is perfectly controlled and reproducible and completely mimics the conditions of the human body.”

Organoids are three-dimensional, miniaturized, and simplified versions of organs made in vitro that can replicate the behaviors and functions of developed organs.

Organoids are commonly referred to as “organs in a shell” or “mini-organs” and are an excellent tool for studying basic biological processes. Organoids allow us to understand how cells in an organ interact, how diseases affect them, and what effects drugs have on disease reduction.

Organoids are generated from embryonic, adult, pluripotent or induced pluripotent stem cells as well as from primary healthy or cancerous tissues. For long-term use, organoids are usually embedded in an Engelbreth-Holm-Schwarm (EHS) matrix, which comes from the reconstituted basement membrane of the mouse sarcoma.

Currently, organoid culture is dependent on this expensive and undefined tumor-derived material, which hinders its use in high-throughput screening, regenerative medicine and diagnostics.

“Our study was essentially able to use an engineered plant-based nanocellulose hydrogel that can replicate the growth of small intestinal organoids from mice,” said Dr. Curvello.

“It consists essentially of 99.9% water and only 0.1% solids, functionalized with a single cell adhesion peptide. Cellulosic nanofibers are bound with salts that provide the microenvironment necessary for the growth and proliferation of organoids in the small intestine provide.

“Engineered Nanocellulose Gel represents a sustainable alternative for organoid growth and helps reduce the cost of studies on diseases of global concern, especially in developing countries.”

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Professor Gil Garnier and Dr. Rodrigo Curvello (BioPRIA, Department of Chemical Engineering) led this study with research support from Professor Helen Abud, Dr. Genevieve Kerr, Dr. Diana Micati, Dr. Wing Hei Chan and Associate Professor Joseph Rosenbluh (Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute) and Dr. Vikram Raghuwanshi (BioPRIA, Department of Chemical Engineering).

At https://doi.org/10.1002/adsv.202002135 you can download a copy of the research paper entitled “Engineered Plant-based Nanocellulose Hydrogel for Small Intestinal Organoid Growth”

For more information on the Monash Organoid program, please visit https://www.monash.edu/discovery-institute/research/organoid-program.

MEDIA INQUIRIES

Leigh Dawson

T: +61 455 368 260
E: media@monash.edu

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