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Regenerative medicine is an area of modern science which is rapidly expanding due, in large part, to the current technologies that have recently become available in this field. Case in point, this past month, in the January 2015 edition of the American Journal of Physiology, scientists report that a segment of human small intestine has been successfully grown in a mouse, creating a wealth of exciting possibilities.

This may sound like the sort of stuff that you would find in a science fiction movie, growing organs and tissues inside other creatures, but it’s science fact, and it could help us  cure diseases that, currently, are impossible to cure.

Tracy Grikscheit, an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, has spent years researching how to grow sections of human small intestine. She works in this area because the success of such research would bring great benefits to sufferers of intestinal diseases, such as those with short bowel syndrome (SBS). SBS is a disease that tends to occur in premature babies. The treatment for this, if other options fail, is intestinal surgery, which is rather complicated and risky; however, the success of this research could negate this need by allowing the growth of the small intestine inside the child.

The work completed by Grickscheit’s team shows that the field of regenerative medicine is finally a real possibility, more than that, the research shows that it is actually achievable.

In order to complete the research, design organoids were taken from mouse or human donors and placed into genetically identical mice. Four weeks later, they were harvested. The results from this experiment showed the small intestine to have functional absorption and digestion which is essential in the small intestine. The fact that they were able to grow this small intestine inside of a mouse is an important development in the field, especially as this research is designed to be used in babies. Yet, before human trials can begin a range of variables and possible complications must be researched.

The next step in this procedure would be to scale up. Literally. We need to increase the size, as the difference between a mouse and a human child is quite significant. Although this is a huge step in regenerative medicine, the field still has a long way to go before it is ready to be used in hospitals. I look forward to the day that we can cure diseases that are currently incurable. The future is bright in this field and is continuously advancing.

Written by FQTQ Contributor David Lawrie

Journal access: American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology Jan 2015, DOI: 10.1152/ajpgi.00111.2014

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