Nature has recently published a news article talking about how organoids helping to defeat COVID. The article describes how researchers have built mini-brains, guts, livers, lungs, and more to study how SARS-CoV-2 infects organs. Below are some highlights from the news article: 

Organoid technology and its potential usage

  • Organoid technology had previously been used mainly to examine basic human biology, development and related disorders, and cancers,
  • Only a few labs employing the organoid models to study viruses and other infectious diseases
  • In exploring the organoid technology’s full potential, scientists need to find ways of growing more comprehensive systems, like adding immune cells and blood vessels

SARS-CoV-2 can infect a host of mini organs

  • There was a paper published in 2020 in Science showing that SARS-CoV-2 was readily replicated in mini guts
  • By using organoids, scientists identified another possible route of transmission and discovered that SARS-CoV-2 can infect a host of mini-organs, from the liver to kidneys to the brain, mimicking the multi-organ damage seen in some people with COVID-19

Discovery of the role of club cells in the lung on SARS-CoV-2 replication using organoid technology

  • For people with severe COVID-19, the site of pneumonia is buried deep in the lungs called alveoli, in which those cells are hard to access and study
  • Viral immunologists using organoids made from alveoli to investigate infection
  • By using organoids, scientists found that SARS-CoV-2 targeted the cells that cover the air-exposed surface riching in the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor

Using gut organoids and gene-editing technique CRISPR to study viral entry

  • In a study, researchers use gene-editing technique CRISPR in gut organoids in identifying two proteins – TMPRSS2 and TMPRSS4, together with ACE2, which can facilitate the virus’s entry

Organoids help to fill the gap between watching the virus in cell lines and animal models

  • Studying virus in cell lines lacks the complexity of real tissue
  • Animal model mirrors human infection poorly and are expensive

Potential of organoid s for drug discovery

  • Many research groups are exploring the potential of organoids for drug discovery
  • A scientist shared a research study testing around 1000 drugs on mini colons and mini lungs while 7 of them looks promising 
  • The scientist also described a 15,000-drug-screen in lung organoids in the news article

Organoids have been used to test vaccines

  • There were research findings on COVID-19 vaccine testing using tonsil organoids
  • Some of the tonsil organoids produced an immune reaction, generating killer T cells and antibodies that could target the spike protein on the surface of the virus
  • Much research is required to be carried out in figuring out whether what happened in a dish reflects what will happen in the body
  • Organs in the body don’t exist in isolation, scientists will need a more comprehensive system that includes immune cells and blood-vessels cells


Mallapaty, Smriti. The Mini Lungs and Other Organoids Helping to Beat COVID. Nature, 26 May 2021,

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