The discovery that many tissues in the adult body contain stem cells has excited scientists working in areas from development to neuroscience to cancer. Stem cells can divide to form specialised tissues such as nerve cells or blood vessels. Hans Clevers and his team were the first to show that we have stem cells deep in the folds of our intestines. Clevers showed that these cells are constantly dividing into different types of specialised gut cell. This on-going production makes our guts the fastest growing organ in the body. Clevers is now director of research at the Princess Maxima Center for Paediatric Oncology, Utrecht University, the Netherlands. His work focuses on using stem cells to grow three-dimensional models of organs, called organoids. Organoids are grown in the laboratory and replicate the structure and function of real organs, allowing scientists to study their biology in great detail outside the human body.
Written by Jake Jacobson
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