Researchers from the Hans Klevers Laboratory (Hubrecht Institute) and the University Hospital in Utrecht, The Netherlands have used organoid technology to grow miniature human lacrimal glands.
Scientists have used organoid technology to grow mice and humans into miniature versions of the lacrimal gland. In fact, organelles are tiny three-dimensional structures that mimic the functions of real organs.
In a new study, organelles are used as a model to study how certain cells in the human lacrimal gland function. Scientists around the world can use this model to identify new treatment options for patients with diseases of the lacrimal glands (for example, dry eye syndrome). Scientists have expressed the hope that in the future, organelles can be transplanted into patients with dysfunctional lacrimal glands. The results are published in the journal Cell Stem Cell on March 16.
The lacrimal gland is located at the top of the eye socket. It secretes tear fluid, which is essential for lubricating and nourishing the cornea, and has antibacterial ingredients. Dysfunction of the lacrimal gland, such as in Sjogren’s syndrome, can have serious consequences, including dry eyes or even corneal ulceration. In severe cases, this leads to blindness. The problem is that the exact biology of the functioning of the lacrimal gland was unknown, and there was no reliable model to study it. This has been the case until now: Researchers from the Hans Klevers group (Hubrecht Institute) have presented the first human model to study how the cells of the lacrimal gland function and what can go wrong in the process.
After scientists grew the organelles of the lacrimal glands, their task was to make them cry. Organoids are grown using a cocktail of growth-promoting factors. However, biologists had to change the usual cocktail so that the organelles could cry. Once the researchers found the right blend of growth factors, they were able to induce tears as well. Human eyes are always moist, like the lacrimal glands grown in the laboratory, scientists say.
Just as people cry in response to pain, for example, organelles cry in response to chemical stimuli such as norepinephrine. Organoid cells shed tears on the inside of the organoid called the lumen. As a result, the organoid swells like a balloon. Thus, size can be used as an indicator of lacrimation and secretion. Further experiments showed that different cells of the lacrimal gland produce different components of the tear. And these cells respond differently to the stimuli that trigger tears.