The National Center for Child Health and Development (NCCHD) has succeeded in generating functional versions of the human gut using human embryonic stem cells (ES cells), according to a report published in the American journal "JCI Insight," on Jan. 12.
These groundbreaking findings by NCCHD are significant -- because they are expected to lead to the development of new types of treatment, as well as novel drugs for patients with intractable intestinal diseases, in addition to improved methods of organ transplantation.
With the intestines being a particularly complex organ, in terms of structure and function, it is difficult to generate intestinal organoids (versions of the intestines) using ES cells or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). As a result, only surface-level versions of the intestines have been generated to date.
In the NCCHD study, Dr. Hidenori Akutsu -- director of the NCCHD Department of Regenerative Medicine -- and his team used a culture dish designed to collect about 5,000 ES cells. Approximately two months later, the ES cells had grown into a small version of the gut, of about 1 centimeter in size.
The small version of the gut displayed the same functions as a conventional gut -- such as absorption of nutrients and drug ingredients -- as well as "peristalsis," which is the relaxation and contraction of intestinal muscles which occurs during eating.
Following the study, the NCCHD team has stated, "We believe that the ES cell-generated version of the gut can be used very soon, in areas such as the development of methods for diagnosis and treatment, and also drug safety studies. Furthermore, in the future, we think that this human gut organoid could be transplanted into the human small intestine, to provide a substitute function in this part of the body."
Video of a human gut organoid generated using human embryonic stem cell (NCCHD):