MONDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) --Researchers say they've
turned human stem cells into functioning human intestinal tissue in
a laboratory setting.
The study team described its accomplishment as a "significant
step" forward in efforts to better understand the function and
development of the human intestine. They also expressed hope that
the innovation will spur the development of new strategies to
combat intestinal diseases, while opening up new avenues for the
generation of transplantation tissue.
"The hope is that our ability to turn stem cells into intestinal tissue will eventually be therapeutically beneficial for people with diseases such as necrotizing enterocolitis, inflammatory bowel disease and short bowel syndromes," explained study senior author James Wells, a researcher in the division of developmental biology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, in a hospital news release.
Wells and his colleagues report their findings in the Dec. 12
online issue of
The authors used two types of so-called "pluripotent" stem cells
-- cells that have the chameleon-like ability to differentiate into
any one of about 200 distinct cell types.
Human embryonic stem cells, which are known to have such
transformative abilities, were one type. For the other, the
researchers looked to "induced" stem cells -- cells harvested from
patients and reprogrammed in the lab to function as pluripotent
Though less well-tested than embryonic stem cells, induced cells
theoretically have the advantage of minimizing the risk for cell
rejection when replanted back into the host patient.
In a petri dish, both types of stem cells were subject to a
series of chemical- and protein-triggered processes that caused
them to develop into the building blocks of various organ
components, such as the lining of the esophagus, stomach and
Over four weeks, Wells and his associates used this approach to
form three-dimensional fetal-like intestinal tissue involving all
the major players in intestinal cellular development.
This incipient tissue continued to develop, ultimately
performing the functions of normal intestinal tissue, the
The research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of
Health and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
For more on stem cells, visit the
U.S. National Institutes of Health.