Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Coaxing Colons
20 August 2017

Coaxing Colons

The gastrointestinal tract – the oesophagus, stomach and intestine – can suffer a host of diseases. General symptoms of gastrointestinal diseases can range from constipation and diarrhoea to vomiting. Because studying equivalent animal organs can’t precisely demonstrate how gastrointestinal diseases manifest in humans, researchers turned to engineering human stem cells to generate life-like colon tissue in the lab. To do so, they had to identify the correct genetic and molecular markers that could be used to precisely coax the stem cells into human colon organoids (pictured highlighting different molecules with various fluorescent colours). Researchers transplanted these organoids just under the surface of the kidney in mice – which provides a nutritious place for them to carry on growing – and saw that they adopted the form, structure and molecular properties of the human colon. In-depth research into the diseases of the colon can now be carried out effectively within this human model system.

Written by Katie Panteli

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