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Transplant success for world’s first functioning tissue-engineered oesophagus


Researchers have successfully grown the world’s first oesophagus engineered from stem cells and transplanted them into mice.

It is hoped this new research by Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and The Francis Crick Institute could pave the way for clinical trials of lab-grown food pipes for children with congenital and acquired gut conditions.

In the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers used a rat oesophagus “scaffold” and human gut cells to grow engineered tubes of oesophagus, which were then implanted into mice.

Within a week the engineered tissue developed its own blood supply, giving it the structure and movements of a healthy gut with the ability to squeeze down food.

The research was co-led by NIHR Research Professor Paolo De Coppi, and the work with human cells was supported by the NIHR Great Ormond Street Hospital Biomedical Research Centre.

Although still in its pre-clinical stage, research into tissue engineering such as this could lead to a new standard of care for patients with complex physical conditions, especially in the case of children with damaged organs. The technique avoids the need for a donated organ, which are often in short supply for the paediatric population, and significantly lowers the risk of organ rejection.

Prof De Coppi, Consultant at GOSH and Head of Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at the UCL Great Ormond Street Hospital Institute of Child Health, said: “This is a major step forward for regenerative medicine, bringing us ever closer to treatment that goes beyond repairing damaged tissue and offers the possibility of rejection-free organs and tissues for transplant.

“At GOSH we see a large number of referrals for some of the most complex and rare defects of the gut. Although the outlook for these children is good, the condition and treatments have long-term implications. We’re really excited about these promising preclinical findings. However, lots more research lies ahead before we can safely and effectively translate this approach to humans.”

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