February 9, 2017 |

Friday Think: A stomach in a petri dish

Researchers have grown a section of a human stomach in a petri dish. And it’s not the first time.
A microscopic image of a tissue-engineered human stomach organoid.
A microscopic image of a tissue-engineered human stomach organoid from the fundus region, the area which produces acid and digestive enzymes that aid in the digestion of our food. Photo: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

It’s February, the start of a new year. And while many people are still gallantly following New Year’s resolutions to minimize their stomachs, some people in Ohio are more interested in growing them. In petri dishes. Literally. Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (Cincinnati Children’s) just announced they’ve generated a functional stomach in a petri dish.

There are multiple sections to a human stomach. This fundus organoid (what scientists call organs that are grown in vitro) produces the same acids and digestive enzymes that break down food in a human stomach. Two years ago the same researchers recreated the antrum, the section responsible for producing hormones that drive appetite. The fundus is prone to acid reflux and bacterial disease that can cause ulcers, a major risk factor in the development of stomach cancer. Researchers are hoping they can study this section to see what causes these diseases and then model treatments either through drugs or enhancing the gut’s microbiome (an ecosystem made up of many kinds of bacteria and other microbes).

A recent post on ScienceDaily dives into more detail on how this work will help us understand human development and healthy guts in new ways. Here’s an excerpt:

“Now that we can grow both antral- and corpus/fundic-type human gastric mini-organs, it’s possible to study how these human gastric tissues interact physiologically, respond differently to infection, injury, and react to pharmacologic treatments,” said Jim Wells, PhD, principal investigator and director of the Pluripotent Stem Cell Facility at Cincinnati Children’s. “Diseases of the stomach impact millions of people in the United States and gastric cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.”. . .

Wells said that it takes about six weeks for stem cells to form gastric-fundus tissues in a petri dish.

There is still more work to be done in the lab, but by studying these working organoids, we’ll learn more about how the body digests food and absorbs nutrients, among other findings. And we all have the appetite to learn more.

Head over to ScienceDaily to read the full story.Friday Think is an occasional series on PATH blog.

During the week we scour the news for the hottest stories on innovation. Our feature, Friday Think, highlights one we’ve found particularly fascinating.

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  • Portrait of Tracy Romoser. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.
    Tracy Romoser is a communications officer and the blog editor at PATH.