Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have recently made functional human intestinal tissue from pluripotent stem cells. The researchers project that this will push the boundaries of research into how the intestines develop and work. It will also help with understanding the diseases that affect this organ and aid in producing intestinal tissues for transplant.
The study’s senior investigator, James Wells, Ph.D, stated that this was the first time cells in a petri dish were programmed to efficiently mimic the cell structures of human intestinal tissue. Regarding the future applications of this find, he said, “The hope is that our ability to turn stem cells into intestinal tissue will eventually be therapeutically beneficial for people with diseases such as necrotizing enterocolitis, inflammatory bowel disease and short bowel syndrome.”
To turn pluripotent stem cells into intestinal tissue, the scientists performed a timed series of cell manipulations using chemicals and proteins called growth factors to mimic embryonic intestinal development in the laboratory.
The results were the formation of three-dimensional tissue resembling fetal intestine that contained all the major intestinal cell types – including enterocytes, goblet, Paneth and enteroendocrine cells. The tissue continued to mature and acquire both the absorptive and secretory functionality of normal human intestinal tissues and also formed intestine-specific stem cells.
With this study, scientists believe they have created unprecedented opportunities to study human intestines and its diseases as well as taken a significant step towards growing intestinal tissue for transplantation.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is considered one of the “Best Children’s Hospitals” by World Report and named by US News to its Honor Roll. It is considered the top children’s hospital when it comes to digestive disorders.