Artificial intestines could be created thanks to stem cells. Intestinal stem cells grown in the laboratory have been manipulated to differentiate in order to produce all of the different types of cells that form intestinal epithelium, said a Dutch study, published in ‘Nature’ magazine by Hans Clevers of the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht.
The study also outlines a more precise link between stem cells and their microenvironment.
It also offers a practical technique to generate new intestinal epithelium in the laboratory. Stem cells, which express the Lgr5 protein, were discovered on several specific regions of the intestinal epithelium, called crypts.
Clevers and his colleagues describe a long-term method transform single stem cells in culture that express Lgr5 in structures simulating the environment of the organ, which contain all of the different types of differentiated cells present in the intestinal crypts.
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Cellular therapy with stem cells is revolutionizing the focus of treatment of many serious diseases. Replacing the cells of damaged tissue with other new cells from the same patient is already a reality. This is the basis of cellular therapy and regenerative medicine, the latest great advance in biomedicine.
In this line, Hospital Clínic, Barcelona is exploring an innovative cellular therapy that uses stem cells to treat Crohn’s disease, a chronic genetic disease that affects 1% of the population in Spain and which has considerable impact on the quality of life of the patients. The procedure is based on an autologous bone-marrow transplant (when patients receive a transplant of their own stem cells) and now constitutes a treatment option to cure an intestinal disease that sometimes does not successfully respond to drugs and requires highly complex surgery that does not provide a cure.
With this therapy, in an average follow-up period of 6 years, 80% of transplant patients are in a phase of total remission of the disease and the remaining 20% have shown considerable improvement following the transplant, and are now responding favorably to drugs.
Dr. Julián Panés and Dr. Elena Ricart over the Gastroenterology Department of Hospital Clínic, Barcelona are the driving force behind this therapy in Spain and began to implement regenerative cellular therapy in patients with Crohn’s disease in August 2008. To date, a total of 6 patients are benefiting from this new treatment, of whom 3 have already completed the process and are in the follow-up face, and a further 3 are at different stages of therapy. The transplant requires several weeks of admission to hospital before patients receive their own cells.
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Researchers for the first time have been able to demonstrate fully functional complex tissues of human organs i.e. intestines, obtained using stem cell technology, which finds applications in laboratory research as well as medical purposes. The paper was published in the journal Nature.
“This is the first study to demonstrate that human pluripotent stem cells in a petri dish can be instructed to efficiently form human tissue with three-dimensional architecture and cellular composition remarkably similar to intestinal tissue,” said Dr. James Wells, a leading researcher at the Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati. “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,” – he added
Stem cells have been of great interest to scientists and doctors, as they have the ability to transform into any cell type in the body, which are of more than 200 types. Unfortunately, the adult body is almost devoid of these cells, and a significant number are formed only at the stage of embryonic development. For this reason, in recent years a number of methods have been developed for producing cells with the properties of stem cells from tissues of the adult human body. These cells, called induced pluripotent, are obtained by reprogramming of skin cells.
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