What are organoids, and how can we leverage this extraordinary technology?

Human Organoids Accellerate Precision Rehabilitation


Our Biologics Lab — one of few within a rehabilitation setting — enables our researchers to study living, human tissue. This special type of lab enables our physician-scientists like Colin Franz, MD, PhD, to study biological approaches to treating a variety of diseases at the cellular level.

In one such study, Dr. Franz is developing organoids — artificially grown masses of cells or tissue that resemble organs — to see whether this technique can contribute to life-changing discoveries for our patients.

Using the extraordinary technology and equipment in our Biologics Lab, Dr. Franz is taking cells from human volunteers and making these tissues testable as organoids. Using organoids to test drugs, study tissue regeneration and assess interventions not only produces more accurate results than would be possible using animal tissue, but it also makes testing less invasive for patients.

Further, because organoids can be readily grown with cells donated by our patients or volunteers, results promise to be more translatable to rehabilitation populations and lead to interventions that are tailored specifically to the needs of individual patients. Dr. Franz is already using organoids to improve precision medicine for neurorehabilitation patients.

An important part of having a comprehensive rehabilitation research program is pursuing innovation. Growing and using organoids represents a perfect example of how science and medicine are a marriage made in translation. No other rehabilitation setting is leveraging organoids to Advance Human Ability®.

Meet the Researcher: Colin Franz, MD, PhD


Colin Franz, MD, PhD is a physician and scientist at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab who subspecializes in neuromuscular medicine and clinical electrophysiology. He serves as the director of the electrodiagnostic laboratory at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, as well as a staff physician in the Lois Insolia ALS clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. His research is focused on personalized neurorehabilitation medicine after neural injury. His lab is technology-oriented and fuses the latest in flexible bioelectronics with stem cell-derived neurons taken directly from his rehabilitation patient volunteers. Dr. Franz received his BS in kinesiology and PhD in anatomy and neuroscience from Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada). He received his MD from Calgary University in Alberta, Canada, followed by a fellowship in neuromuscular medicine at the Ken & Ruth Davee Department of Neurology within McGaw Medical Center at Northwestern University.

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