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Optimization and scaling of patient-derived brain organoids uncovers deep phenotypes of disease

Shah K et al




Cerebral organoids provide unparalleled access to human brain development in vitro. However, variability induced by current culture methodologies precludes using organoids as robust disease models. To address this, we developed an automated Organoid Culture and Assay (ORCA) system to support longitudinal unbiased phenotyping of organoids at scale across multiple patient lines. We then characterized organoid variability using novel machine learning methods and found that the contribution of donor, clone, and batch is significant and remarkably consistent over gene expression, morphology, and cell-type composition. Next, we performed multi-factorial protocol optimization, producing a directed forebrain protocol compatible with 96-well culture that exhibits low variability while preserving tissue complexity. Finally, we used ORCA to study tuberous sclerosis, a disease with known genetics but poorly representative animal models. For the first time, we report highly reproducible morphological and molecular signatures of disease in heterozygous TSC+/- forebrain organoids, demonstrating the benefit of a scaled organoid system for phenotype discovery in human disease models.

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