grown in a dish
produced from stem cells
By Tina Hesman Saey
Scientists have grown a mouse pituitary
gland for the first time from embryonic
stem cells. Or rather, the gland grew
itself after researchers coaxed embryonic stem cells to form the type of tissues that normally surround the gland.
The feat, reported online November 9
in Nature, could be the first step toward
replacement pituitaries for people.
Glands grown in lab dishes may also
help researchers learn how the organs
develop in the body.
“There’s a lot in it to be excited
about, whether you’re a developmental
biologist or interested in clinical appli-
cations,” says Sally Camper, a develop-
mental geneticist at the University of
Michigan in Ann Arbor. Camper has
tried, and failed, to coax embryonic stem
cells to form pituitary glands.
Precursors of hormone-producing pitu-
itary endocrine cells (red) form among
more primitive cells (blue-green).
complete with the five different types
of hormone-producing cells found in a
naturally formed gland. The dish-grown
gland secretes one of those hormones,
adrenocorticotropic hormone, both in a
lab dish and when transplanted in mice.
Sasai says his group is testing to see if
lab-grown glands can make other pituitary hormones.
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