Intestinal epithelial organoids fuse to form self-organizing tubes in floating collagen gels

Norman Sachs, Yoshiyuki Tsukamoto, Pekka Kujala, Peter J Peters, Hans Clevers

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)


Multiple recent examples highlight how stem cells can self-organize in vitro to establish organoids that closely resemble their in vivo counterparts. Single Lgr5+ mouse intestinal stem cells can be cultured under defined conditions forming ever-expanding epithelial organoids that retain cell polarization, cell type diversity and anatomical organization of the in vivo epithelium. Although exhibiting a remarkable level of self-organization, the so called 'mini-guts' have a closed cystic structure of microscopic size. Here, we describe a simple protocol to generate macroscopic intestinal tubes from small cystic organoids. Embedding proliferating organoids within a contracting floating collagen gel allows them to align and fuse to generate macroscopic hollow structures ('tubes') that are lined with a simple epithelium containing all major cell types (including functional stem cells) of the small intestine. Cells lining the central contiguous lumen closely resemble the epithelial cells on luminal villi in vivo, whereas buds that protrude from the main tube into the surrounding matrix closely resemble crypts. Thus, the remarkable self-organizing properties of Lgr5+ stem cells extend beyond the level of the microscopic cystic organoid to the next, macroscopic, level of tube formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1107-1112
Number of pages6
JournalDevelopment (Cambridge)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2017


  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Fusion
  • Collagen
  • Gels
  • Intestinal Mucosa
  • Mice
  • Organoids
  • Rats
  • Stem Cells
  • Tissue Culture Techniques
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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