A growing intestine helps a growing heart to form


Embryonic development is now increasingly being studied using organelles – microscopic copies of the intestine, heart, kidney, and even the brain. Any organ is obtained from embryonic stem cells, which in the embryo not only divide, but also gradually change, acquiring one or another specialization – they become cells of muscles, liver, skin, etc. work is in full swing here), but you can recreate a microorgan – an organoid. In fact, such organelles often represent not the entire organ, but some part, for example, the nephron (structural unit of the kidney), or the rudiment of the cerebral cortex. But even this is enough to understand the general laws of development, and at the same time to test certain medicinal or potentially toxic substances on the organoid.

Employees Gladstone Institute, who experimented with the cardiac organelle, found that it forms better if the intestinal organoid begins to form next to it. They worked with the so-called induced pluripotent human stem cells – they are formed from ordinary, specialized cells, which are first converted into a stem state with the help of several molecular signals, and then, with the help of a different molecular cocktail, directed to one or another specialization. Specialization can be any, therefore they are called pluripotent (roughly speaking, “omnipotent”), and induced – since all transformations occur at the suggestion of the experimenter.

Researchers have tried to influence the induced stem cells in such a way that from them not only cells of the heart muscle, but also other cells, which are also in the heart, are obtained. Going through various sets of molecular signals, they at some point discovered that the forming organoid contains not only heart cells, but also intestinal cells. In an article in Cell Stem Cell it is said that the heart worked better with the intestines: its structure was more complex and more reminiscent of a real heart – for example, something similar to blood vessels feeding the heart muscle appeared in the organoid. In the organoid heart, which formed side by side with intestinal cells, the cells were more diverse, and their proportions relative to each other, as well as the electrical properties of those who should have such properties, again more closely resembled the real heart of a developing fetus. But without intestinal cells in the neighborhood, the organoid heart seemed to freeze at an earlier stage of development.

Intestinal cells were also there for a reason – they formed structures that resemble those of the small intestine. By and large, the researchers got a double organoid, in which the cellular structures of the heart and intestines intensively communicated with each other with a variety of chemical signals. The double organoid lived for a whole year, which is unusually long for such structures.

Of course, even in this form, the organoid heart and organoid intestine are quite different from the heart and intestines in a real embryo. However, a double organoid is a more natural state than an organoid of any one organ, which itself floats in a laboratory nutrient medium. In a real embryo, all organs develop together, in close contact and close communication with each other, so that the double organoid helps to better understand the details of what happens during embryonic development.


Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by www.nkj.ru.

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