Christchurch Hospital’s Department of Paediatric Surgery has developed a way to grow smooth muscle cells which may lead to new treatment options for those with bowel diseases or defects.

Research lead by Dr. Atsushi Yoshida & Prof. Spencer Beasley has developed a technique that allows them to grow smooth muscle which exhibits muscle contractions similar that of bowel muscle. The breakthrough allows the researchers to convert pluripotent stem cells into sheets of this smooth muscle tissue.

“This is a significant breakthrough because until now being able to achieve contracting sheets of smooth muscle cells has proved very difficult,” – Dr. Atushi Yoshida

While this is a big step in the right direction there are still hurdles to overcome before we might see these techniques used in various treatments. The researchers must still get the sheet of smooth muscle tissue into a tubular shape. That tubular shape must also exhibit the ability to absorb nutrients & also contract in a peristaltic fashion(think of a wave of energy traveling through a slinky).

Even with the work that still needs to be done, the prospect of being able to grow someone a new bowel is a tantalizing prospect. Current treatment options such as parental nutrition, bowel transplantation or bowel surgery all have significant risk & quality of life issues. Further development could drastically change the lives of those affected with diseases such as short bowel syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.

Source: Christchurch Hospital researcher one step away from being able to create human bowel