Lab Grown Intestines made from Stem Cells

lab grown intestines

Stem cells stained green.

Researchers have successfully transplanted organoids of working human intestinal tissue into mice making lab grown intestines. This tissue constructed by the use of stem cells can accelerate drug research and be used as a transplant treatment for people affected by intestinal diseases.

Stem cells are cells able to become any tissue in the body. There are many different types of stem cells able to become a couple of different tissues to any tissue in the whole body. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are the term for adult cells that have been reprogrammed back to an embryonic state. The main advantage of this approach is that people can be treated with cells from their own body avoiding the problem of rejection. These cells are also an important tool for research as this latest study highlights.

Lab Grown Intestines created from Stem Cells

Researchers started by creating the iPSCs from collected blood and skin cells. These harvested cells were placed in a special molecular cocktail so that human intestine organoids would form. These organoids were grafted to the capsule of the kidney of a mouse. This position allowed the lab grown intestines to get adequate blood supply to develop into fully functional human intestines.

The mice used in the study were genetically bred to not reject the transplanted human tissue. Researchers used microscopic surgery techniques to attach the graft, which presented some small scale tricky work. After being grafted these cells grew by themselves and created fully functional human intestines. The organ worked in the same way as a human intestine would with the same various cell types and abilities.

This breakthrough opens the way for new treatments for people with genetic defects affecting their intestines and for people with chronic diseases such as Crohn’s disease. The main advantage of using iPSCs is that people’s own cells would be used to create the stem cells, this removes all problems with rejection. Treatments for human patients is of course still a long way off, but this advance opens a way of creating those treatments.

A more direct result of this breakthrough is that these lab grown intestines will provide researchers with a new better model to study intestinal diseases in the lab. This advance could eliminate the need for much of the animal testing and accelerate drug development for intestinal diseases.

Image credit:  UCI UC Irvine in accordance with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0