Stem Cell Technology: Scientists Generate Human Intestinal Tissue With Functioning Nerves

First Posted: Nov 22, 2016 02:41 AM EST

Scientists are currently studying the use of human pluripotent stem cells to develop human intestinal tissues with functional nerves -- with hopes of creating a promising medication for the severe intestinal nerve disorder, Hirschsprung's disease.

Science Daily reports that researchers from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center are currently studying and engineering human pluripotent stem cells to generate study tissues for the intestine -- the body organ responsible for food processing, water and nutrient absorption.

According to WebMD, due to its heavy duty, the intestine is prone to poor conditions such as stomach flu, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and life-threatening diseases like Intussusception, colon bleeding, cancer and Hirschsprung's disease.

This stem cell technology will aid the study on the molecular progression of a rare form of Hirschsprung's disease, which affects the large intestine of newborns, babies and toddlers. This condition could lead to serious complications in the child's rectum and colon that could possibly result to an early death.

"One day this technology will allow us to grow a section of healthy intestine for transplant into a patient, but the ability to use it now to test and ask countless new questions will help human health to the greatest extent," said Michael Helmrath, MD, co-lead study author and surgical director of the Intestinal Rehabilitation Program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, in his statement in Nature Medicine.

Jim Wells, PhD, the study's co-lead author and director of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, added that "A fairly immediate goal for this technology that would help the largest number of people is as a first-pass screen for new drugs to look for off-target toxicities and prevent side effects in the intestine." Most oral medications, he said, could cause cramps, diarrhea and impairment of intestinal motility among young children.

With the use of a biochemical and a petri dish, these generated human pluripotent stem cells could pave the way for other research opportunities not just for intestinal cell purposes but for other cell types in the body as well.

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