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Cincinnati Children's Hospital researchers have made a miniature stomach in a lab

14 week Transplanted 3 Germ Layer Human Stomach Organoid.jpg
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
This confocal microscope image shows a stomach organoid at 14 weeks after growing from a pluripotent stem cell in the labs at Cincinnati Children’s. The various colors represent different types of cells within the complex organ tissue, including nerve cells (green), smooth muscle cells (red), and epithelial surfaces (white)

The complex stomach is just one organ scientists at Children's are developing. They have already made progress on tiny livers, kidneys and brains called organoids.

Scientists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have taken another giant leap in future medical treatment by creating a complex miniature stomach, called an organoid, in a lab.

By simply using a few drops of blood to harvest pluripotent stem cells, they can now grow and then combine elements to create a working stomach with many layers.

Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of the Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine James Wells, Ph.D., likens it to baking a cake.

“One of these really nice cakes you might see on a British baking show with lots of different layers,” he says.

One layer makes acids that digest your food; layers of muscle help mix the food up, and another layer consists of a series of complicated neural networks that control muscle.

Wells and his team are now able to assemble everything in a laboratory dish. The size of the stomach is very small, ranging from a pea to a fingernail.

“The goal would be to introduce them into a patient and have them in that patient’s very own intestine, patch up damage, so essentially to repair and restore normal function of a damaged organ,” says Wells.

His research was published Dec. 1 in Cell Stem Cell by Wells and lead author Alexandra Eicher, Ph.D.

The organoids can also be used for drug testing. The stomach organoid does not yet have every cell type it needs. Children’s is also perfecting other organoids including the liver, kidney and brain.

Researchers have been working on this technology for years. WVXU interviewed Wells a decade ago.

Two years ago, another Children’s researcher, Takanori Takebe, connected a set of three organs-the liver, pancreas and bile ducts.