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RFID-enabled Organoids Offer Aid in Scientific Research

Researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital have conducted a test of their UHF RFID-enabled miniature human organs to enable high-volume testing of the tissues in pharmaceutical and implant development.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 07, 2018

While RFID chips are more typically applied to packaging or containers of goods, or to materials being racked, a team of researchers has developed a system in which an RFID tag is part of a human organoid, with the tissue grown directly around the chip. In that way, the tag can always be uniquely identified, no matter what plate or dish it's stored in.

The researchers, working at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, have developed a system known as RFID integrated Organoid (RiO) to automatically identify human organoids in groups as they are used in lab experiments, to develop pharmaceutical products or for implants. The work is being led by Takanori Takebe, a clinician and researcher at the medical center, as well as at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University, and Yokohama City University.

Organoids are miniature human organs produced from stem cells in a lab to be used for experimentation purposes. With the live tissue, scientists can test how organs from humans of a variety of backgrounds respond to medications, or in various environments, in order to ensure that a drug or implant would be safe with all kinds of patients. Organoids are still fairly new—they evolved rapidly several years ago—and are awaiting clinical applications, but there are limited numbers of them. "They have tremendous promise for medical applications," says Takebe, "but there are limits in scalability."

Each organoid must be grown from stem cells, which takes several weeks, and the cost of the process, along with the relatively limited access to the stem cells needed, means that they can't be provided in the volume that pharmaceutical companies and researchers might want for large-scale testing. That means each organoid would serve the scientific community best, Takebe says, if it could be used multiple times, through a variety of tests—and in a pool within a single well, rather than each in its own unique container. "By pooling the organoids in the same well," he states, "significant cost reduction will be expected, besides enhanced reproducibility of the experiments."

Since RFID is typically attached as an exterior tag or label, Takebe says, implanting an RFID chip into human tissue posed the greatest challenge. The scientists couldn't risk damaging an organoid by inserting the chip into it. So instead, the RFID chip was introduced at the earliest of organoid development.

The small organs are created through what Takebe calls a self-assembly process. Cells line up to build what he describes as a polarized structure that comes with a natural cavity. Therefore, the scientists introduced the RFID chips (which measure 0.4 millimeter) during that self-assembly process. The cells are then assembled around the chips. The chip comes with 512 bits of memory, Takebe says, so that data beyond a unique ID could be stored on it.

Once the organoids are fully assembled around the RFID chip (the growth of the organoid still takes about two weeks) the chip's unique ID number is paired with information about the tissue donor, such as phenotype features that could be used as markers during testing. The organoids are then placed in dishes in groups (each fits into a compartment within the tray or well), so that testing can be accomplished on multiple specimens at once. The wells with the organoids are then referred to as a multi-donor derived RiO pool.

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