Tear glands cry in a dish

A team of researchers, led by Marie Bannier-Hélaouët of the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands, has developed organoids that swell up with tears in a petri dish, modelled on tear glands.

This video shows a human organoid, based on tear glands, swelling (i.e. crying) upon the addition of adrenaline. Credit: Marie Bannier-Hélaouët, Hubrecht Institute.

The organoids were made using human stem cells and were able to ‘cry’ in the dish. They also produced tear proteins when transplanted into mice.

“The challenge was to get the organoids to cry, as this is a hallmark of the lacrimal gland [tear gland],” says Bannier-Hélaouët. “We had to modify the cocktail of factors the organoids are grown in so that they would become the mature cells that we have in our tear glands and that are capable of crying.”

The researchers say that 5% of the population suffers from dry eyes, but there were previously no models to use for therapy research. While it is still early days, this research provides a new avenue to explore.

The paper was published in Cell Stem Cell.

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