The Cincinnati Children’s researchers describe the advance as a first. Pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) can form any tissue type in the body.
“Disorders of the esophagus and trachea are prevalent enough in people that organoid models of human esophagus could be greatly beneficial,” Jim Wells, PhD, chief scientific officer at CuSTOM and study lead investigator, said in a news release.
“In addition to being a new model to study birth defects like esophageal atresia, the organoids can be used to study diseases like eosinophilic esophagitis and Barrett’s metaplasia, or to bioengineer genetically matched esophageal tissue for individual patients,” Wells added.
Wells and his team produced the organoids through precisely timed, step-by-step manipulations of genetic and biochemical signals that pattern and form embryonic endoderm and foregut tissues. They partly focused on the gene gene Sox2 and its associated protein, which are already known to trigger esophageal conditions when their function is disrupted.
The resulting human esophageal organoids were fully formed and grew to a length of about 300-800 micrometers in about two months. Compared biochemically with esophageal tissues from patient biopsies, the bioengineered tissues were similar.
The research team plans to further the technology’s therapeutic potential through projects including using the organoids to examine the progression of specific diseases and congenital defects affecting the esophagus. The study is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.