Figuring out how vital organs like the stomach first develop is a struggle – it’s difficult to watch cells knitting together in the womb. One alternative is this stomach 'organoid', a living model grown from human stem cells. Early in life, our stomachs developed the fundus – an area which produces acids and enzymes required for digestion. Proteins called Wnt and β-catenin usually switch on or off inside early stomach cells to guide development – disrupting them in this fundus organoid reveals catastrophic effects (pictured). Shown with its cells artificially coloured, the organoid has very few green-coloured acid-producing cells, and the pink-red cells are developing more like tissue characteristic of a different part of the stomach. Using organoids to mimic different stomach regions, together with intestinal organoids, may allow scientists to recreate the early digestive system, and look for clues about a range of developmental disorders.
Written by John Ankers
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