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Working intestine grown in lab

Working intestine grown in lab
Photo: Working intestine grown in lab
Scientists have created the first functioning human intestine from stem cells in the laboratory, paving the way for new gut disorder treatments.

Functioning human intestine has been grown from stem cells in the laboratory, paving the way to new treatments for gut disorders.

Scientists first created tissue fragments called "organoids" that were transplanted into mice, where they matured.

Each animal produced "significant" amounts of fully functional human intestine.

US lead scientist Dr Michael Helmrath, from the Intestinal Rehabilitation Program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, on Sunday said: "This provides a new way to study the many diseases and conditions that can cause intestinal failure, from genetic disorders appearing at birth to conditions that strike later in life, such as cancer and Crohn's disease.

"These studies also advance the longer-term goal of growing tissues that can replace damaged human intestine."

The organoids were generated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) - stem cells created by genetically altering adult skin cells, causing them to revert to an immature embryonic state.

Like stem cells taken from early stage embryos, iPSCs have the ability to become any type of tissue in the body.

The fragments were grafted onto the kidneys of mice to provide them with a necessary blood supply.

The cells then grew and multiplied on their own. The mice used were genetically engineered so their immune systems would accept human tissues.

Future treatments could use iPSCs derived from a patient's own skin cells, eliminating the risk of transplant rejection.

In the shorter term, the work is more likely to accellerate drug development and progress towards personalised medicine.

The research was reported in the online edition of Nature Medicine journal.

Copyright AAP 2014.

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