Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Lab Bat

Lab-grown model of bat intestine tissue enables study of response to bat-infecting viruses

13 February 2022

Lab Bat

Infamously implicated in the COVID-19 pandemic, bats can host many viruses dangerous to humans, from coronaviruses to Ebola, yet are rarely affected themselves. As studying bats in the laboratory is challenging, their extraordinary resilience remains relatively-poorly understood. Researchers are working to overcome this, developing methods for culturing bat cells in self-organising 3D structures, or organoids, which provide more realistic insights into viral interactions with bat organs, compared to traditional cell cultures. Most recently, organoids (pictured) were developed from cells in the intestines of a fruit bat, Rousettus leschenaultii. After confirming they contain cell types typical of the bat intestine, initial tests suggest these organoids are susceptible to infection with Pteropine orthoreovirus, which can cause respiratory disease in humans, but not with SARS-Cov-2. Expanding the approach to other bat organs and viruses will help understand how and when infection can occur, and hopefully uncover some of the secrets of bat immunity.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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