New mini-organs: how they help us better understand diseases

A biologist from the University of Würzburg in the laboratory managed to replicate the cervix. This opens up many possibilities in research into infections and cancer.

Dr. Cindrilla Chumduri, Group Leader of the Department of Microbiology Julius Maximilian University of Wurzburg (JMU) managed to replicate a live cervix. The process uses stem cells, various growth factors and takes about four to six weeks. Although it is a reduced version of the organ, it is a fully functional copy of the cervix. The main function of the cervix is ​​to allow sperm to enter the uterine cavity. This can lead to egg fertilization. It also protects women’s workout tract from viruses, bacteria and fungi.

The disease processes – in this case cervical cancer in particular – can be well studied using these so-called 3D organoids. The search for new active substances, genome interventions and disease modeling are now possible due to live replication.

“Until now, science has lacked a system that accurately reflects the physiological and functional properties of different types of cervical cells,” says Dr. Chumduri. Cervical replication is a novelty that holds great promise for cancer research.

Replication using stem cells

The researchers took stem cells from the cervix to create a replica.
The researchers took stem cells from the cervix to create a replica. (Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / 16692474)

To replicate the cervix, dr. Cindrilla Chumduri and her team used so-called adult epithelial stem cells as starting material.

The cervix forms the connection between the uterine cavity and the vagina. It consists of the endocervix, which borders the uterus, and the so-called ectocervix, which protrudes into the vagina. The stem cells were biopsiesie tissue samples taken from endo- and ectocervices. Using a unique combination of growth factors and different cultivation methods, the researchers were able to create a reduced but otherwise vivid 3D copy.

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The transition zone where the endocervix and ectocervix merge is particularly susceptible to infection. Most cases of cervical cancer occur there.

In further experiments, the researchers also genetically engineered the stem cells. Human papillomavirus (HPV) stem cell genes responsible for the development of cancer have been implanted. This may solve a mystery that science has long struggled to solve.

Co-infections for the development of cancer

Science already knows that HPV is the driving force behind the disease cancer is on the cervix. Nevertheless, infection with the virus is not synonymous with malignant new tissue formation: current statistics suggest that approximately 80 percent of all women will experience HPV infection in their lifetime. However, according to the German Cancer Research Center, on average, less than 1 in 100 women at high risk will develop cervical cancer in about 15 years after being infected.

There are now suspected other factors that increase the risk of cervical cancer. For example, co-infection with other sexually transmitted pathogens, such as a bacterial pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis.

Dr. Chumduri and her team now have the opportunity to take a closer look at these common infections and the long-term consequences of a viral infection.

Great research potential

Cindrilla Chumduri is real: 3D organoids are ideal for studying and modeling cervical biology, host-pathogen interactions, and disease development. In addition, the copy is very useful for further experiments and research.

She is convinced: “In general, the organoid cervical model offers great potential for further progress in the study of the reproductive biology of women.”


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