Patients closer to receiving regenerated tissue, scientists say

Doctors are one step closer to using regenerated tissue to treat patients due to breakthroughs in stem cell research, according to a new study.

Scientists have developed a new gel from piglet intestinal tissue to grow tissue in the form of organoids so they can be used in human treatment.

Organoids are laboratory-grown structures of human stem cells that model the shape and function of tissue such as muscle.

While they hold potential for use in the replacement and repair of damaged or diseased tissue, the gels currently used to culture human organoids have been unsuitable for use in patients.

However, the researchers led by National Institute for Health Research Professor Paolo De Coppi and Professor Nicola Elvassore, at University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, have developed an extracellular-matrix (ECM) hydrogel.

The use of decellularised piglet intestinal tissue means organoids could be suitable for use in human treatment.

Published in Nature Communications, the study suggests the new hydrogel meets good practice standards so can be used in a clinical setting.

It provides the same level of support to stem cells in the organoid culture as synthetic gels, scientists say.

Gels used in the development of organoids play an important role in determining the final tissue that is grown.

Researchers found their new ECM hydrogel could be used to support cell growth not only in small intestine tissue, but also for liver, stomach and pancreatic tissue.

They say their findings mark a step towards clinicians being able to use laboratory-developed organoids in clinical settings.

Organoids (Paolo De Coppi and Giovanni Giobbe/PA)
Organoids (Paolo De Coppi and Giovanni Giobbe/PA)

Prof De Coppi said: “There is a huge potential for organoids to open up regenerative medicine and advance how we treat complex conditions.

“Our findings mark a major step towards seeing tissue grown from stem cells being used in clinical settings to treat patients.

“This could open up the possibility of providing organoid transplants for patients affected by devastating diseases such as short bowel syndrome to improve intestinal function.”

Research was conducted by a team from UCL GOS ICH, the Francis Crick Institute, ShanghaiTech University, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, University Medical Centre Utrecht, Princess Maxima Centre for Paediatric Oncology Netherlands and the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine in Italy.

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