U.S. researchers grow organoids to tackle facial deformities

Updated 2017-06-19 11:34:04 Xinhua

U.S. researchers are growing tiny functioning segments of organs, called organoids, in a bid to find ways to treat deformities of the craniofacial complex, namely the skull and face.


Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (YCSF), are using stem cells from patients with such deformities to figure out when and how such flaws occur in fetal development.

Organs of the craniofacial complex often go terribly wrong during fetal development. Deformities of these bones or soft tissues, the most common of birth defects, can cut life short by blocking the airway or circulation, or disfigure a face.

In addition, such deformities may lead to a lifetime of corrective surgeries and social isolation.

As director of the UCSF Program in Craniofacial Biology and chair of the Division of Craniofacial Anomalies, Ophir Klein has orchestrated a research endeavor to translate basic science findings in tissue regeneration into improved treatments for kids with craniofacial deformities.

While Klein is growing teeth, his colleagues are growing tissues that make up the face, or muscle, or salivary glands.X Klein's work to generate teeth is inspired by his patients with ectodermal dysplasia, a congenital disorder characterized by a lack of sweat glands, hair, or teeth. Being able to generate the roots of teeth would be remarkable for these patients.

A tooth can be regenerated in parts. Stem cells can be used to grow the roots. To grow an entire organ, Klein's colleagues are planning to partner with bioengineers who can produce a biocompatible material that could serve as a framing device to create dentin, one of the hard components of a tooth.

If they start with the right cells, then the scaffolding will help them create the right design.

As the reservoirs of human development, stem cells take it upon themselves to tirelessly renew and differentiate the myriad cell types required to build a body from an embryo.

"It is a self-organizing process," said Zev Gartner, an associate professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, explaining that the process starts in the womb with embryonic stem cells (ESCs) or, in the case of organoids, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).

These cells are mature cells that are stripped back to their earliest stage of development using a process devised by UCSF Professor of Anatomy Shinya Yamanaka, who won a Nobel Prize for discovering the process.

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