WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, MARVIN101Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have succeeded in engineering intestinal tissue with functional nerves in a laboratory setting.
Their method, described in a study published this week in Nature Medicine, brings regenerative medicine one step closer to making practical use of human pluripotent stem cells for transplants and, nearer term, modeling and studying intestinal disorders.
Helmrath and colleagues placed human pluripotent stem cells in a biochemical bath to form intestinal tissue, and then engineered a nervous system from embryonic nerve cells in a separate petri dish.
The team succeeded at incorporating its primitive nervous system into the intestinal tissue, even inducing the enteric nerve precursor cells and intestinal cells to grow in concert.
The researchers then transplanted the engineered intestines and nerves into mice where, they reported, the sample grew normally, even demonstrating peristalsis.
Helmrath’s team then used the engineered intestine to study Hirschprung’s disease, a condition in which the rectum and colon fail to develop a normal local nervous system.
The researchers found an association with the disease in the gene PHOX2B; experimentally mutating it in the engineered intestine, the team observed damage to the synthetic tissue’s nervous system.