During the creation of a drug, one of the biggest issues is testing, especially clinical testing with human participants. Scientists often use small animals such as mice in order to understand the effects of a drug on the body. The issue with that method is that a mouse’s body is not like a human body. There are similarities, but a mouse’s body still functions fairly differently when compared to the human body. Because of this, scientists have been looking into potential alternatives to this method. In recent years they have been working on creating small organs, named organoids. These organs are grown in Petri dishes but keep all the same functionalities as normal human organs.
During January in 2017 scientists were able to successfully create a functioning human stomach. The stomach they created was even able to produce stomach acid as well as digestive enzymes. The idea behind the creation of this Petri dish organ is that the scientists finally have the opportunity to understand how a stomach exactly works, and what happens in a stomach when something goes wrong.
The human stomach has a fairly complex structure. It is divided into multiple sections, all with various functions. In the research, the scientists recreated a part of the stomach that is called the fundus. This part of the stomach creates the acid and enzymes necessary to break down food. Unfortunately, as important as the fundus is, it is also highly susceptible to contracting various diseases. In cases where the stomach created too much acid, people can suffer from acid reflux. Another common issue is an infection caused by bacteria called H.Priyori. This infection causes ulcers and inflammation. With the creation of this tiny stomach, researchers are hoping to better understand how these diseases work and what can be done to cure them or prevent them entirely.
When using the organoid researchers are able to see in real time what effect a bacteria or disease has on the stomach. They can also see the ways a stomach heals and maintains itself in order to work properly.
During acid build up in the organisms, people often suffer from inflammation of the inner stomach lining. Prescription drugs such as Prilosec help with the inflammation. The ability to observe how these drugs affect the stomach in real time through the microscope may give scientists enough information to perfect treatments for issues such as this.
In 2015, scientists were able to create another part of the stomach. This time it was the antrum. The antrum is important because it creates the hormones that are used in other vital tasks within the body. One of them is the regulation of appetite.
Both of the organs were created from stem cells – cells that can turn into any cell in the human body. The idea is that in the future scientists can use the same technology to create organs that are ready for use in humans. This makes replacing hearts and other organs a reality and will generally improve the quality of life for people around the globe.