Scientists working in a lab have successfully managed to grow a miniature human esophagus (esophageal organoid). They hope that this could be used in the future to study conditions that affect the esophagus, or as a basis to bioengineer esophageal tissue for patients. For more information about this research, you can click here to read the source article at Cincinnati Children’s website. Alternatively, you can find the original article at Cell Stem Cell by clicking here.
About the Esophagus
The esophagus is a tube that connects the throat and the stomach. It uses muscular contractions to carry food and drink down to the stomach. When a person isn’t swallowing, two bands of muscle close the passage to prevent food and stomach acid from flowing back up to the throat.
The esophagus can be affected by several disorders, many of which we still need better treatments for, such as esophageal cancer, eosinophilic esophagitis, eosinophilic fasciitis, and eosinophilic gastroenteritis, amongst others. The scientists’ hope that their developments in creating miniature esophagus models may help to support future research into potential treatments for conditions that affect the organ.
Scientists from several divisions of the Cincinnati Children’s collaborated with researchers from the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco to create human esophageal tissue from pluripotent stem cells. According to the article by Cincinnati Children’s, this is the first time scientists have succeeded in doing this.
Pluripotent stem cells are able to form many types of tissue in the body and have previously been used to create human intestine, stomach, liver, and colon. By using precise biochemical and genetic signals, the researchers were able to induce the cells to form esophageal tissue. The team also investigated a gene called Sox2 that is thought, and was confirmed to, play a crucial role in the development and survival of esophageal tissue.
Once they had succeeded in creating human esophageal organoids, they compared the bioengineered tissue to patient biopsies and found that the test results for the two showed significant similarities.
Possible Future Uses
Dr Wells, who led the study, is optimistic that this research could be used in medicine. He speculates that the organoids could be used as models to study certain conditions, such as esophageal atresia or eosinophilic esophagitis. In addition, the techniques used in this study may be useful for bioengineering genetically compatible esophageal tissue that can be used to treat patients.