Researchers engineer functioning small intestine in laboratory experiments

July 6, 2011

Researchers at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have successfully created a tissue-engineered small intestine in mice that replicates the intestinal structures of natural intestine — a necessary first step toward someday applying this regenerative medicine technique to humans.

The research team took samples of intestinal tissue from mice. This tissue comprised the layers of the various cells that make up the intestine, including muscle cells and the cells that line the inside (epithelial cells). They then transplanted that mixture of cells within the abdomen on biodegradable polymers (scaffolding).

The researchers were able to grow new, engineered small intestines that had all of the cell types found in native intestine. They were also able to identify which cells had been provided, and all of the major components of the tissue-engineered intestine derived from the implanted cells.  They found that the new organs contained the most essential components of the originals.

“For children with intestinal failure, we are always looking for long-term, durable solutions that will not require the administration of toxic drugs to ensure engraftment.  This tissue-engineered intestine, which has all of the critical components of the mature intestine, represents a truly exciting albeit preliminary step in the right direction,” said Henri Ford, MD, Vice President and Surgeon-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Next up are additional tissue-growing experiments—each one of which may bring that much closer the prospects of clinical testing and a solution for babies in need.

Ref.: Tracy C. Grikscheit, et al., A Multicellular Approach Forms a Significant Amount of Tissue-Engineered Small Intestine in the Mouse, Tissue Engineering Part A, 2011; 17 (13-14): 1841 [DOI: 10.1089/ten.tea.2010.0564]