Cells of the body are remarkably well programmed – they seem to “know” how to form organs, even when removed from the body. This beautiful intestinal organoid (essentially, a mini-gut) was generated by culturing stem cells from a mouse intestine. Intestinal stem cells are responsible for the constant cell renewal of the intestinal lining. Remarkably, the entire 2,000 square foot surface area of the intestine is replaced every 3-4 days! As shown here, these stem cells can be grown in a dish and will form several of the characteristic intestinal cell types, including absorptive cells (outlined in purple) and goblet cells (fiery red) that secrete mucous. Given the ability of intestinal organoids to mimic the architecture, cellular composition and some of the functions of the intestine, they are an important new tool that is revolutionizing our understanding of intestinal biology, disease pathogenesis and regeneration.
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