Researchers are making progress in the quest to grow body parts in the lab. The atoll-like eyelets pictured are formed from mouse cells in culture. They have developed into a ‘pouch’ (with a rim of cells coloured green and white) that will form a functioning pituitary gland. The pea-like gland sits at the base of the brain producing hormones that affect fertility, libido, stress, water-retention and growth. Each pouch, which is 10 times smaller than a pinhead, was grown in a dish from embryonic mouse stem cells. The cells were chemically coaxed to form pituitary tissue, which self-assembled into functioning glands. Lab-grown transplantable glands could one day complement hormone replacement therapies. Trials on mice without pituitary glands showed their hormone levels were restored when implanted with a lab-grown spare. Whether biologists can grow more complex organs remains to be seen, but they now hope to grow human pituitaries.
Written by Tristan Farrow
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.