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article image3-D method grows miniature pancreas

By Tim Sandle     Oct 19, 2013 in Science
An innovative 3D method has been used to grow miniature pancreas from progenitor cells. The aim is to use this model to help in the fight against diabetes.
Professor Anne Grapin-Botton and her team at the Danish Stem Cell Center have developed a novel three-dimensional culture method which enables the efficient expansion of pancreatic cells. The method was been carried out using cells from mice.
The pancreas is a glandular organ in the digestive system and endocrine system. It endocrine produces several important hormones, including insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and pancreatic polypeptide. The pancreas is also a digestive organ, secreting pancreatic juice containing digestive enzymes that assist the absorption of nutrients and the digestion in the small intestine. These enzymes help to further break down the carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids in the chyme.
The new method involves extracting the cells and using a special gel, which acts like a form of fertilizer. The structure of the gel allows the cells to develop three-dimensionally, to form tree-like structures.
The researchers hope that the method offers the potential for producing miniature human pancreas from human stem cells. These human miniature organs would be valuable as models to test new drugs fast and effective, thereby avoiding animal models.
The research was undertaken at the University of Copenhagen. The remarkable research has been published in the journal Development. The paper is titled “Artificial three-dimensional niches deconstruct pancreas development in vitro.”
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