Research Highlights | Published:

Developmental biology

'Mini-guts' made with nerves

Nature volume 539, page 471 (24 November 2016) | Download Citation

Miniature tissue structures resembling a human intestine with functional nerves can mimic the involuntary contractions that push food through the gut.

James Wells and Michael Helmrath of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio and their team generated nerve and intestinal cells from human stem cells. They grew the mix for 28 days to make 3D structures, or organoids, that had intrinsic nerve cells. They then transplanted the organoids into mice to form mature nerves. A single electric impulse triggered a prolonged wave of contractions in the organoids that had a nervous system, but did not do so in structures lacking nerves. Using the model, the group identified molecular pathways involved in Hirschsprung's disease, a rare disorder of the large intestine.

These organoids could be used to study other intestinal diseases, the authors say.

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