"A new milestone in laboratory grown human brain tissue"
What do our experts say?
WideCells CSO Peter Hollands looks at how stem cells are helping to power the next generation of disease study:
Quite a step forward here for the development of treatments of diseases caused by defects relating to myelin, a substance which forms the insulation of the brain. Among other things, this includes multiple sclerosis.
It focuses on an advancement in the generation of organoids, effectively tiny pieces of human tissue – usually no more than one or two millimetres in diameter – which allow us to study the causes of diseases and to test treatments, without involving human test subjects.
Organoids are created using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), a type of cell capable of making almost any human tissue. However, up till now is that we have had difficulty generating organoids which include the type of cell which generates myelin (known as ‘oligendrocytes’).
According to this report, at least one group of researchers have overcome this difficulty, enabling us to effectively have a fully functional piece of neuronal brain tissue, myelin included, for study. That means we should be able to model the degeneration and repair of myelin in the lab, giving us a significant advantage when developing and testing treatments for diseases such as MS.
This is excellent news for sufferers of myelin-based diseases, but also helps to demonstrate the potential of iPSCs in creating organoids for the study of disease more broadly. The organoid technique is likely to be used to study and better understand the vast majority of diseases is eventually, and this report stands as another encouraging piece of evidence demonstrating iPSCs’ efficacy in helping to achieve this.