Homeostatic functions of a living tissue, such as the gastrointestinal tract, rely on highly sophisticated and finely tuned cell-to-cell interactions. These crosstalks evolve and continuously are refined as the tissue develops and give rise to specialized cells performing general and tissue-specific functions. To study these systems, stem cell-based in vitro models, often called organoids, and non-stem cell-based primary cell aggregates (called spheroids) appeared just over a decade ago. These models still are evolving and gaining complexity, making them the state-of-the-art models for studying cellular crosstalk in the gastrointestinal tract, and to investigate digestive pathologies, such as inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, and liver diseases. However, the use of organoid- or spheroid-based models to recapitulate in vitro the highly complex structure of in vivo tissue remains challenging, and mainly restricted to expert developmental cell biologists. Here, we condense the founding knowledge and key literature information that scientists adopting the organoid technology for the first time need to consider when using these models for novel biological questions. We also include information that current organoid/spheroid users could use to add to increase the complexity to their existing models. We highlight the current and prospective evolution of these models through bridging stem cell biology with biomaterial and scaffold engineering research areas. Linking these complementary fields will increase the in vitro mimicry of in vivo tissue, and potentially lead to more successful translational biomedical applications. Deepening our understanding of the nature and dynamic fine-tuning of intercellular crosstalks will enable identifying novel signaling targets for new or repurposed therapeutics used in many multifactorial diseases.
Keywords: Adult Stem Cells; Assembloids; Embryonic and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells; Hydrogels; In Vitro Models; Microfluidics; Organoids; Scaffolds.
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