Thyroid in a dish

Stem cells assemble themselves into a working gland

Genetically engineered embryonic stem cells in the lab turn on a developmental program similar to the one thyroid glands go through in the body, Francesco Antonica of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium and colleagues report online October 10 in Nature. Cells following this thyroid development program form hollow, hormone-producing spheres like those found in a normal thyroid gland.

THYROID IN A DISH Embryonic stem cells formed hollow, hormone-producing spheres (green) in a lab dish that, when transplanted into mice, worked like a functioning thyroid gland. F. Antonica/S. Costagliola Lab/IRBHM/ULB

Researchers tested the dish-grown glands by transplanting them into mice whose thyroids had been destroyed with radiation. The new organs made hormones and reversed the mice’s thyroid problems.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

More Stories from Science News on Life