Researchers have for the first time grown tissue-engineered human large intestine. The human tissue-engineered colon includes all of the required specialized cell types that are found in human large intestine. The research team grew the tissue-engineered large intestine from specific groups of cells, called organoid units that were derived from intestinal tissue normally discarded after surgery. The organoid units grew on a biodegradable scaffold. After 4 weeks, the human tissue-engineered colon contained the differentiated cell types required in the functioning colon, and included other key components including smooth muscle, ganglion cells, and components of the stem cell niche. Identification of a human-specific protein confirmed that the tissue-engineered large intestine grew from human cells. This proof-of-concept experiment is an important step in transitioning tissue-engineered colon to human therapy.
The removal of regions of the large intestine, or colon resection, is the current standard of treatment for multiple conditions such as colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and pediatric Hirschprung’s disease, among others. Colon resection patients may spend the rest of their lives with colostomy bags, strict dietary restrictions, and the possibility of further invasive medical procedures. An ideal treatment would replace the missing large intestine.
“Our aim is exact replacement of the tissue that is lacking. There are many important functions of the large intestine, and we can partially compensate for that loss through other medical advances, but there are still patients for whom this technology might be revolutionary if we can cross the translational hurdles. This is one of the advances that brings us toward our goal,” said Grikscheit, a surgeon and researcher at The Saban Research Institute’s Developmental Biology and Regenerative Medicine program.
Grikscheit’s paper can be found in its entirety in the October issue of Regenerative Medicine.