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Scientists from Oxford University and the University of Birmingham have made the first bone marrow ‘organoids’ that include all the key components of human marrow. This technology allows for the screening of multiple anti-cancer drugs at the same time, as well as testing personalised treatments for individual cancer patients.

Whole bone marrow organoid © Dr A Khan, University of Birmingham

The study, published in the journal Cancer Discovery, describes a new method using human stem cells grown in a specially designed 3D ‘scaffold’, to generate the key cell types that exist in human bone marrow (the which is factory that continuously produces circulating blood cells).

These new organoids can also keep cancer cells from blood cancer patients alive in the lab, something that was very difficult before. This means that doctors may now be able to test customised treatments for specific patients on their own cancer cells, to find the treatments most likely to treat the cancer.

Dr Abdullah Khan, a Sir Henry Wellcome Fellow at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and first author of the study, said: 'Remarkably, we found that the cells in their bone marrow organoids resemble real bone marrow cells not just in terms of their activity and function, but also in their architectural relationships - the cell types ‘self-organize’ and arrange themselves within the organoids just like they do in human bone marrow in the body.'

Read the full story on the Radcliffe Department of Medicine website

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