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Sun and Pak Co-edit Special Issue of Journal of Molecular Biology

Yubing Sun

Yubing Sun

Assistant Professor Yubing Sun of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and Assistant Professor ChangHui Pak of the of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology co-edited the newest special issue of the Journal of Molecular Biology on "Organoids: Expanding Applications Enabled by Emerging Technologies." 

The Journal of Molecular Biology is a biweekly, peer-reviewed, scientific journal covering all aspects of molecular biology. It was established in 1959 and is published by Elsevier. 

In their comprehensive editorial introducing the special issue, Sun and Pak explain that “The growing need to develop more reliable and human-based model systems [is] facilitating the rapid development of cell-based culture systems that better mimic the physiological conditions and tissue/organ functions. These systems, derived from primary tissues, embryonic stem cells, or induced pluripotent stem cells in 3D conditions, are termed as ‘organoids.’”

Sun and Pak go on to say that “The progress of organoid biology is accompanied and driven by the development of biotechnologies and the growing knowledge of cell-niche interactions.”

Among many other observations made by Sun and Pak in their lengthy editorial, they write that “Recently, bioengineering tools, such as micropatterning and microfluidics, facilitate more precise 2D and 3D models of early-stage human embryogenesis. Improvements in both the complexity of cultured organoids and our understanding towards these organoid systems are continuously progressing with the adoption of new tools such as single-cell transcriptomics, dynamic culture systems, synthetic biomaterials, and flexible electrodes, to mention a few.”

As Sun and Pak conclude, “Together, we envision that the close collaborations between stem cell biologists and bioengineers are greatly needed to push organoid research to the next level.”

Sun, who heads the Laboratory for Multiscale Bioengineering and Mechanobiology, is also an adjunct of the Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Departments.

As Sun explains the research in his lab, “Our research applies and integrates fundamental engineering principles, such as manufacturing, biomechanics, materials science, and micro/nanoengineering, to understand and harness the mechanobiology of stem cells for modeling currently incurable human diseases and for applications in regenerative medicine.”

Sun adds that “Our lab is working closely with Dr. Pak’s lab to develop micro-engineered tools to derive brain organoids with high pattern fidelity and reproducibility. We believe this research will lead to better models for various developmental and neuropsychiatric diseases.”

In her laboratory, Pak utilizes brain organoids derived from induced pluripotent stem cells from patients with neuropsychiatric disorders to uncover the molecular and cellular mechanisms of disease pathogenesis and potential therapeutic strategies. Together with the Sun lab, Pak is working towards improving the fidelity and reproducibility of 3D brain organoids in order to better recapitulate human embryonic development and to use these as cellular tools for disease modeling.

Pak writes that “We are at an exciting time in organo-biology where we can combine bioengineering and material engineering tools to tailor our 3D tissues in culture to better mimic human development and to translate these materials to disease biology. To this end, we need engineers and biologists to work together closely.” 

(March 2022)