Science never ceases to amaze us, and the latest news regarding a major research development in medicine certainly holds true to this notion.

 

Earlier this week, scientists from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine created the first ever petri-dish “mini stomachs” using stem cells. By combining the use of human embryonic stem cells, which are grown from human embryos, and induced pluripotent stem cells, which are made when skin or other tissue behaves like a stem cell, the scientists were able to generate human stomach tissue and grow what essentially resembles miniature human stomachs.

 

Scientists used stem cells to grow human stomach tissue, shown here (nbcnews.com)

Scientists used stem cells to grow human stomach tissue, shown here (nbcnews.com)

The stomach is an extremely complex organ, and as such, it is natural that the potential ability to create anything even close to an actual stomach is not entirely likely at any point in the near future. Fully grown, the mini stomachs which the scientists have managed to create are no larger than a pea, a fact which demonstrates just one discrepancy between an actual stomach and that which the scientists have created. However, the tissue which has been grown has the ability to behave as the actual stomach would when exposed to various elements and diseases. For example, James Wells, the study’s lead researcher, reported:

“We were able to show … that when we inject the bacteria or a little solution of Helicobacter into our little football-shaped mini-stomachs, the bacteria immediately know what to do and they behaved as if they were in the stomach. They bound to the lining and they triggered the early stages of stomach disease. The cells, in response to the infection, started to replicate themselves.”

 

Thus, the research suggests that these mini stomachs — or gastric organoids, as the researchers have called them — can be used to more thoroughly understand the behavior of the stomach, particularly in the case of various diseases. Looking at the example of Heliobacter used in the aforementioned test, the importance of developing a deeper understanding of how the stomach behaves in response to the bacteria lies in the fact that Heliobacter is responsible for many cases of stomach cancer.

 

The ultimate goal, as expressed by the researchers, is to be able to use the organoids to better understand normal and abnormal human stomach formation, as well as diseases like stomach cancer or obesity-related diabetes. More importantly, the organoids may serve as an invaluable tool in the development of treatments and solutions to major medical problems, such as providing scientists with the potential to grow patches to fix ulcers.

 

Stomach cancer, shown here in abdominal CT scans, is just one condition scientists hope these gastric organoids can help us understand and potentially treat (thegaurdian.com)

Stomach cancer, shown here in abdominal CT scans, is just one condition scientists hope these gastric organoids can help us understand and potentially treat (thegaurdian.com)

One of the key points which West and his team have highlighted is that unlike many other bodily behaviors which may possess fundamental similarities to animals and allow for detailed study through animal observation, the human stomach is unique. Factors like variation in diet play a role in differentiating the biology and structure of the human stomach from others. It is precisely for this reason that having the ability to specifically study the behavior and nature of the human stomach and diseases unique to humans is so vital.

 

While research is still underway and more intricate insight into the gastric organoids’ utility and efficacy will continue to unfold through ongoing research, the simple success of creating tissue which replicates that of the human stomach is revolutionary. It is a fascinating example of the constant progression of science and technology, and their vital role in transforming how we approach some of the most important questions in our society, both medical and otherwise.

 

How do you feel this scientific development will change medicine moving forward? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi