March 31, 2011

Stem cell research has made leaps and bounds the past few years, and it’s no wonder why…they hold amazing therapeutic potential and teach us so much about development. A recent paper makes another leap for the stem cell community and shows some amazing things that stem cells can do.

Stem cells have the ability to differentiate into many cell types, and this ability requires that stem cells respond to different cues depending on the resulting cell type. Biologists have been able to induce differentiation of stem cells into various cell types in culture, and recently a group of researchers have induced differentiation of stem cells into a three-dimensional tissue. Spence and colleagues applied a sequence of growth factors to cultured stem cells to mimic those seen during intestinal development. After several days, these cells differentiated into three-dimensional intestinal tissue. As seen in the images above, these “organoids” were columnar-shaped and very similar to actual intestinal tissue. Images on left show the stem cells earlier in the experiment, while images on right show the organoids several days later.

ResearchBlogging.orgSpence, J., Mayhew, C., Rankin, S., Kuhar, M., Vallance, J., Tolle, K., Hoskins, E., Kalinichenko, V., Wells, S., Zorn, A., Shroyer, N., & Wells, J. (2010). Directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into intestinal tissue in vitro Nature, 470 (7332), 105-109 DOI: 10.1038/nature09691
Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright 2011

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