Scientists Grow, Implant Human Intestinal Tissue in Mice

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SUNDAY, Oct. 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New stem cell-based research could improve understanding of intestinal diseases and eventually lead to new treatments, a new study suggests.

Scientists used stem cells to grow "organoids" of functioning human intestinal tissue in a lab dish. They then transplanted the organoids into mice, creating a new model for studying intestinal disorders, according to the researchers.

"This provides a new way to study the many diseases and conditions that can cause intestinal failure, from genetic disorders appearing at birth to conditions that strike later in life, such as cancer and Crohn's disease," lead investigator Dr. Michael Helmrath, surgical director of the Intestinal Rehabilitation Program at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said in a center news release.

"These studies also advance the longer-term goal of growing tissues that can replace damaged human intestine," he added.

Further research could eventually lead to the ability to create personalized human intestinal tissue to treat gastrointestinal diseases, according to the researchers.

"These studies support the concept that patient-specific cells can be used to grow intestine," Helmrath explained.

The research was published online Oct. 19 in the journal Nature Medicine.

The intestinal organoids were created using so-called pluripotent stem cells, which can become any type of tissue in the body. The scientists created these "blank" stem cells by reprogramming adult cells taken from skin and blood samples.

The stem cells were placed in lab dishes with a specific molecular mixture that prompted the cells to grow into intestinal organoids, which developed into fully mature, functioning human intestinal tissue after being transplanted into mice.

The mice were genetically engineered so that their immune systems would not reject the human tissue, the study authors noted.

Researchers acknowledge that studies with animals often fail to produce similar results in people.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about digestive diseases.