Medical

Most-advanced lab-grown mini-stomachs now produce acid

Most-advanced lab-grown mini-s...
A 14-week-old stomach organoid, stained with different colors for different cell types
A 14-week-old stomach organoid, stained with different colors for different cell types
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A 14-week-old stomach organoid, stained with different colors for different cell types
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A 14-week-old stomach organoid, stained with different colors for different cell types
A 10-week-old stomach organoid, growing inside a mouse
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A 10-week-old stomach organoid, growing inside a mouse
A diagram illustrating how the three different germ layer cells combine to form a more advanced stomach organoid, and how growing them in mice helps further
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A diagram illustrating how the three different germ layer cells combine to form a more advanced stomach organoid, and how growing them in mice helps further
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Lab-grown mini-organs are advancing at an incredible rate, opening up new ways for scientists to model biology, diseases and new treatments. In a new study, scientists have created the most advanced stomach organoids so far, composed of three cell types which allows them to contract and produce acid.

Cell cultures and animal models are important parts of medical experiments, but results don’t always translate well to live human tests. A closer proxy that’s emerged in recent years is lab-grown organoids, which are tiny, three-dimensional organs grown from stem cells that often function like the real thing. You could almost create an entire mini-human out of all the organoids developed in the lab so far, including brains, lungs, hearts, kidneys, livers, pancreases, blood vessels and stomachs.

And now, that last one has had a major improvement. Scientists from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have grown the most advanced stomach organoids so far, using multiple cell types which grants them new abilities closer to natural stomachs.

The team started with human pluripotent stem cells, which can be coaxed into developing into a range of other cells in the body. In this case, the scientists grew them into the three primary germ layers needed for normal stomach development – enteric neuroglial, mesenchymal, and epithelial precursors.

“From these we generated stomach tissue that contained acid-producing glands, surrounded by layers of smooth muscle containing functional enteric neurons that controlled contractions of the engineered antral stomach tissue,” says Alexandra Eicher, lead author of the study.

A 10-week-old stomach organoid, growing inside a mouse
A 10-week-old stomach organoid, growing inside a mouse

To advance the organoids even further, at around the 30-day mark of development the team transplanted them into mice. There, fed with blood flow and more space, the organoids grew a thousand times larger than they usually do in cell culture. They even developed other features that had been lacking, such as a Brunner’s gland, which secretes an alkaline solution that protects the upper intestine from the stomach’s acidity.

The team says that the technique of growing organoids out of multiple precursor cells could be applied to other mini-organs, to make for better models of biology and disease. Eventually, the goal is to be able to grow entire, full-sized organs in the lab on demand for transplantation. The team says it’s working towards this goal by the end of the decade.

The research was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Source: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

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