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Scientists have managed to develop miniature stomach organs from stem cells, in order to study how gastric diseases such as ulcers and stomach cancer develop and grow.
Grown in petri dishes, the stem-cell-grown stomachs are fully formed, with full function. They are only about the size of a pea and shaped like a rugby ball. The interior of the miniature stomach is hollow, with an interior lining folded into glands and pits like a real human stomach.
When tested, it was found that the small stomachs, also known as gastric organoids, responded to infection just like our own lifesize versions. This is promising for future tests on ‘manmade’ organs to discover how human stomach disease develops and for finding a possible treatment.
“There hasn’t been any good way to study human stomach disease before because animals just don’t get the same diseases,” commented James Wells, director of the Pluripotent Stem Cell Facility and the study’s lead researcher.
Human gastric disease is commonly associated with infection caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori. Over 50% of the world’s population is infected with the bacteria which can be picked up from food. Although the bacteria doesn’t always present symptoms, once it is present within an individual, up to 20% of carriers go on to develop gastric ulcers during their life span, and over 2% will develop stomach cancer.
The research team took this bacteria and injected samples of it into the miniature stomachs. In animals, the Helicobacter pylori bacteria doesn’t have much of an effect and disease doesn’t tend to follow but here the invading bacteria responded as though it was invading a full-size human stomach.
The scientists are now investigating whether this very technique could be used to grow replacement stomach tissue for repairing patient’s gastric ulcers, and for potential gastric disease treatment and further research.