In response to proper stimuli, human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) self-organize into three-dimensional “organoids” resembling embryo-like tissue patterns in vitro.

By this strategy, we have established a novel in vitro model of early human heart, foregut and vasculature development termed “heart-forming organoids” (HFOs). HFOs closely resemble aspects of early native heart anlagen prior to heart tube formation, which is known to require an interplay with foregut endoderm. Apart from the extensive characterization, we have used HFOs to study genetic defects in vitro and have demonstrated their applicability as a platform for teratogenicity assessment by modulating endothelial cell and cardiomyocyte induction in response to compound treatments, such as VEGF and thalidomide.

In a novel approach, we aim at advancing and maturing the current model. HFOs represent a complex multi-tissue structure requiring simultaneous culture in different media to promote the maintenance and maturation of the different tissues. This may be achieved by establishing stable culture media gradients across the HFOs using the MIVO system, which will be highlighted based on our hands-on experience in frame of this webinar. Using this strategy, our advanced organoid model will open new perspectives for drug discovery and for studying mechanisms of human development and disease.



Lika Drakhlis is a postdoctoral researcher in the group of Dr. Robert Zweigerdt at the Leibniz Research Laboratories for Biotechnology and Artificial Organs (LEBAO) at Hannover Medical School (MHH), Germany. During her PhD studies in Dr. Zweigerdt’s lab within the PhD program “Regenerative Sciences” she developed an in vitro model of early human heart, foregut and vasculature development termed “heart-forming organoids” (HFOs). Her current research focusses on advancing and maturing this organoid model to enable the broad applicability of HFOs in pharmacological research and regenerative medicine.

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