14 February 2019

Voices: The Importance of Fetal Tissue Research

stem cell research

Cell Stem Cell journal features 9 researchers who are all reflecting on the impact and key contributions of fetal tissue in their field of expertise. DanStem and Bric Associate Professor Kim Jensen reflects on Human Intestinal Development.

The value of fetal tissue research cannot be understated and has led to remarkable advances in understanding human development, therapeutic discovery, and stem cell research across many organ systems. Associate Professor Jensen reflects in this article on Human Intestinal Development.

*The intestinal epithelium is one of the most rapidly self-renewing tissues in our bodies. Yet, we understand very little about how this organ forms during development, particularly how the tissue transitions from an immature gut tube into a functional epithelium that will support our life-long requirements for nutrient uptake. The importance of this transition is evident from infants who suffer compromised neonatal gut function due to disorders such as necrotizing enterocolitis or microvillus inclusion disease. Characterization of how the human intestine develops and matures will help us understand disease development and has implications for new treatment strategies. In this regard, access to human fetal material is essential given that intestinal development differs between rodents and humans.

Despite the promise of iPSCs for disease modeling and regenerative therapies, it remains challenging to generate mature intestinal epithelium from PSCs, as the endpoint so far resembles an immature fetal state. However, certain fetal properties could potentially be advantageous for intestinal regeneration. Human developmental insights into the signaling networks that govern tissue maturation and patterns of expression that characterize distinct developmental cell states will be instrumental for optimizing these differentiation protocols.

In sum, access to human fetal material is essential for understanding human intestinal development and disease and is vital for regenerative strategies.

Cell Stem Cell 24, March 7, 2019 ª 2019 Published by Elsevier Inc

Link to the full story

Associate Professor Kim Jensen and his group investigates the mechanisms that control stem cell behavior and cell fate choices during development, homeostasis and disease using the epithelia of the skin and intestine as model systems

The Jensen group investigates:

  • Identification and characterization of the regulatory control mechanisms that control normal tissue homeostasis
  • Functional characterization of the gene regulatory networks that control regionalisation and maturation of fetal progenitors into adult epithelial stem cells
  • Understanding mechanisms that regulate aberrant stem cell fate behavior during diseases such as cancer and during regeneration.