In a world first, scientists from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have created functioning fetal intestinal tissue from pluripotent stem cells.
Both human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were used in the research. hESCs have the natural ability to become any type of cell found in the human body, while the iPSCs were created by reprogramming biopsied human skin cells into stem cells. The two types were used so that the researchers could compare the transformative capabilities of the relatively-new iPSC technology with the more established hESC methodology.
It is now hoped that such lab-grown tissue could be used to research treatments for gastro-intestinal diseases, or for transplantation.
The team, led by Cincinnati Children’s Dr. James Wells, used chemical and protein growth factors to manipulate the pluripotent stem cells. They were first coaxed into becoming definitive endoderm embryonic cells – these are the cells that have the potential to become the lining of the esophagus, stomach and intestines, or the lungs, pancreas and liver. Using a pro-intestinal cell culture, the cells were then swayed to further develop into embryonic intestinal cells known as hindgut progenitors.