Mini-guts as alternative for animal tissue

An organoid is a miniaturized and simplified version of an organ. They provide an excellent laboratory (in vitro) model system to study complex traits which are not easily accessible in animals (in vivo). The small intestine being an example. 

Alternative protein sources

As proof of principal, the researchers introduced alternative protein sources, present in animal feed, to organoids. They found that the ‘mini-guts’ have a similar response to the protein sources as the intestines in the animal. This is in line with previously published results of (in vivo) rodent studies.


“These results highlight the possibilities to use organoids to address scientific questions. Moreover gut organoids can be generated from tissues from animals killed for food production, frozen and grown for at least several months as an alternative to animal research.” says prof. Wells.

Next steps: Organoids derived from livestock species

The researchers advise using host-specific organoids to measure the reactions of nutrient or microbes. Thus, for chicken feed research, chicken organoids are preferred, and for pig feed research, pig organoids should be used.

In the Animal Sciences Group, of WUR Host-Microbe Interactomics and Wageningen Livestock Research), pig organoids of both small and large intestine have been developed. Like the mice intestinal organoids, the pig intestinal organoids offer the possibility to measure intestinal functionality including nutrient absorption, barrier function, and immune response. 

LINK TO SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION: "Effects of undigested protein-rich ingredients on polarised small intestinal organoid monolayers"