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article imageLab grows functioning 3D intestine

By Tim Sandle     Oct 19, 2015 in Science
Scientists have grown a fully functioning intestine prepared on top of a three dimensional scaffold. The intestine was made with stem cells taken from mice and people.
The new bio-invention is the output of a group based at Johns Hopkins Children's Center and the University of Pittsburgh. The objective of the exercise was a so-called "proof of concept" experiment; that is to show that an intestine can be grown in order to lay down a benchmark for future research. The long-term aim is to create an implantable intestine via surgery to help extend human life. Various illnesses, such as cancer or certain trauma, can lead to a loss of intestinal cells. Furthermore, a high proportion of babies are born with necrotizing enterocolitis where substantial amounts of the intestinal lining are loss.
The study showed how stem cells, mixed with immune and connective tissue cells, are able to grow into normal gut tissue. Although stem cells can theoretically become any other type of cell, this is the first time that an intestine had been created.
The process involved researchers taking stem cells from the colons of babies and from mice. To this, immune cells (macrophages) were added. To this mix, fibroblasts were deposited (these cells form collagen, the connective substance that binds cells together).
To accelerate and strengthen the process, the researchers added probiotic bacteria to the newly created intestinal tissue. This succeeded in speeding up the cell differentiation process.
One of the key steps to constructing the intestine was the three dimensional structure. To engineer this, a biodegradable material was used. Here the cells used to construct the intestine were grown around the scaffold and after a point in time the scaffold dissolves away to leave the intact organ in place.
Parallel studies in mice showed that the mixture can also help with the formation and development of new cells that make up the intestinal lining, indicating that re-growth of lost intestinal material is possible.
The findings are published in the journal Regenerative Medicine, in a paper headed “Intestinal stem cell growth and differentiation on a tubular scaffold with evaluation in small and large animals.”
More about Intestine, Gut, Body, 3D printing
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