Using a mouse model, researchers have deciphered an alternative route that certain cells take to make organs and used that knowledge to exploit a new type of stem cells as a potential source of organs in a dish.
Imagine if you could repair damaged tissue in our organs. That is what stem cell research is working towards, because stem cells have tremendous potential to produce the cells of organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestine.
For decades, scientists have attempted to mimic the path that stem cells follow in order to form e.g. organs in embryos. However, despite extensive efforts, making cells to properly develop in the lab has been very difficult. But they may have overlooked an important step and maybe missing another type of stem cells, suggests a new study from the University of Copenhagen.
“Very simply put, a number of recent studies have attempted make a gut from stem cells in a dish. We have found a new way to do this, a way which follows different aspects of what happens in the embryo. Here, we found a new route that the embryo uses, and we describe the intermediate stage that different types of stem cells could use to make the gut and other organs,” says Ph.D. student at Martin Proks, one of the primary authors of the study from Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Medicine at the University of Copenhagen (reNEW).
The researchers looked at so-called pluripotent stem cells and endoderm extra-embryonic stem cells. Extra-embryonic endoderm cells are a new stem cell line that the same research team described a couple of years back. They contribute to the gut organs by being very important support cells that provide membranes, nourishment for the membranes and more.
Group Leader and Professor Joshua Brickman at reNEW explains:
“We have identified an alternative route that so called extra-embryonic cells can use to make intestinal organs in the embryo. We then took our extra-embryonic endoderm stem cells and developed them into intestinal organ-like structures in the dish.”
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