Wednesday, 15 June 2016 13:23

Körber Prize of European Science 2016 for development of organoids Featured

The Dutch biologist and physician Prof. Hans Clevers receives the Körber European Science Prize 2016, endowed with 750,000 euros. The Körber Foundation honours Clevers with this prize for his groundbreaking work in the field of stem cell research.

The Dutch biologist and physicians has developed a new standard procedure for an unlimited proliferation of adult stem cells in order to breed rudimentary organs in miniature format, the so-called organoids. These can be used to lifelikely test drugs in the Petri dish and to or possibly replace heal damaged organs. Clevers wants to use the prize money to take first steps towards gene therapy.

The winners investigate primarily adult stem cells in digestive organs, especially in the small intestine. Clevers is particularly interested in signals that stimulate stem cells to divide. By means of the receptor (Lgr5), which he has discovered and which occurs only in stem cells, he succeeded in isolating stem cells from intestinal tissue. Even stem cells of many other organs, such as liver, stomach, pancreas, kidneys and prostate, have the Lgr5 receptor.

In 2009, Prof. Clevers an his postdoc Toshiro Sato were able to produce an intestinal organoid from a single intestinal stem cell, which survived several months in a petri dish. As ingredients the team needed a cocktail of several growth factors and a gel - called "matrigel" - that allowed a supporting structure for the development of a three-dimensional organoid form.

2013 he succeeded in eliminating intestinal genetic defect an in stem cells derived from patients suffering from the hereditary disease cystic fibrosis. In doing so he used a newly developed method of genetic engineering (CRISPR/Cas9). The organoids generated from the corrected stem cells were cured of cystic fibrosis. Similarly, Clevers hopes to cure rare hereditary damages in the liver in future.

Press release of the Körber Foundation