Scientists Grow Stomach in Laboratory

Researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have developed a way in which cells from the stomach’s corpus/fundus region can be developed in the laboratory. These small organs could help research into common gastrointestinal problems and enhance drug research.

Image Shows Tissue-Engineered Human Stomach, Image credit: Cincinnati Children's Hospital
Image Shows Tissue-Engineered Human Stomach, Image credit: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Stomach illnesses are common, impacting large numbers of individuals. An approximated 25 % of people in the United States are impacted by gastrointestinal problems.

Worldwide, gastric cancer is the 3rd major cause of cancer associated deaths.

To test new medicines and get a much better understanding of gastric disease mechanisms, it is important to have a reliable model of the working human stomach.

Even though there are a range of animal models for human gastrointestinal conditions, they can be time taking and complex to use.

Principal investigator Jim Wells, director of the Pluripotent Stem Cell Facility at Cincinnati Children’s, has made it his goal to develop consistent, reliable models of the organs involved in digestion – especially, the intestines, stomach, pancreas, and esophagus.

His study team has developed ways to use pluripotent stem cells to develop organs. Pluripotent stem cells are un-differentiated – to put it differently, they have the capability to develop into any cell form in the body.

2 years ago, Wells and his team learned the best way to use pluripotent stem cells to produce a part of the stomach accountable for producing hormones. This region is known as the antrum.

Growing a new section of stomach

A recent report presented in the journal Nature explains how the study team recently developed a method to develop the stomach’s corpus/fundus region. This is the top section of the stomach, close to the cardiac sphincter where the organ is connected to the esophagus.

Commenting on research PI Jim Wells said,

“Now that we can grow both antral- and corpus/fundic form human gastric mini-organs, it’s feasible to research how these human gastric tissues communicate physiologically, react in a different way to infection, injury and respond to pharmacologic treatments.

This finding is the most recent in a long line of scientific studies from Wells’ laboratory to utilize pluripotent stem cells. They specialize in developing organoids, which are simplified versions of human organs that show realistic anatomy, albeit on a much smaller scale.

For instance, they efficiently engineered human intestine with an enteric nervous system, which was capable of absorb nutrients and perform peristalsis (the contractions that transfer food along the intestine).

Their new process guides pluripotent stem cells via natural developmental stages, turning them into human fundus organoids in just six  weeks.