Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Building Brains
08 April 2016

Building Brains

Proving size doesn't matter, a region of the brain no bigger than a pea controls how we handle stress, how we grow and our fertility. The anterior pituitary gland manages this by producing a host of hormones. Disorders of this gland can cause a range of problems from dwarfism to diabetes. Current treatment involves taking replacement hormones, though mimicking the body's daily changes in hormone levels is tricky and laden with side effects if it goes awry. Transplanting healthy pituitary tissue could resolve this but such tissue is in short supply. One solution is to grow pituitary tissue in a dish. With this in mind, researchers coaxed human embryonic stem cells to develop into pituitary tissue (pink) by growing them in specialised 3D constructs with a cocktail of chemicals. Following transplantation, this tissue successfully treated mice lacking anterior pituitary glands. Research continues to make human transplants a reality.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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