Scientists are growing human tear glands in the lab, and actually making them cry

Scientists are growing human tear glands in the lab, and actually making them cry

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The dislodged, weeping human lacrimal glands look like something out of a science fiction movie. But in the Netherlands, functional lacrimal glands that are not related to anyone’s eyes (or emotions) are starring in their real-life dramas.

Researchers from the Hubrecht Institute and UMC Utrecht used stem cells to grow small lacrimal glands in a petri dish that mimics the real thing. They hope these so-called organelles will serve as models to study how cells in the human lacrimal glands produce tears. Ultimate goal: to better understand and treat conditions like dry eyes or an autoimmune disorder Sjogren’s syndromeAs well as lacrimal gland cancers.

“Hopefully, in the future, this type of organism will be culturable for patients with non-functioning lacrimal glands,” says Marie Pannier Hlaweit, a doctoral student at the Hobrecht Institute for Growth Biology and Stem Cell Research. Co-authored by Prof. The study was published Tuesday in the journal Cell Stem Cell That explains the details of the project.

Organelles are built in the laboratory, in 3D suspensions, from a small number of stem cells that eventually multiply to form something that looks like a real organ. Like a small brainAnd the bladderOr, in this case, the glands located inside the upper eyelid.

The lacrimal glands continuously supply the fluid that is swept across the surface of the eye each time we blink and then drains into small holes in the corners of the upper and lower eyelids before we travel through the tear ducts to the nose. In addition to showing emotion, the fluid is Essential for eye healthIt lubricates the cornea and helps ward off bacteria. A weak lacrimal gland can be troublesome, causing scratching, stinging, burning, and sensitivity to light. But it can also be dangerous, leading to corneal abrasions, ulcers, or even blindness in the most severe cases.

The lacrimal glands are made up of several types of cells. Glands transplanted in the laboratory outside the Netherlands consist of only one type, which is ductal and weeping in response to chemical stimuli such as noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter that sends a message from nerve cells to the lacrimal glands.

The cells shed tears on the inside of the organ, causing it to swell.

Marie Pannier-Hlaouit / The Hobrecht Institute

“Our eyes are always wet, just like the lacrimal glands in the dish,” Pannier-Helout says of the prosthetic glands. Bannier-Hélaout works in the world of molecular biology Hans Cleavers Laboratory, Which focuses on creating organelles to model disease, and has previously recreated snake venom glands and rat rupture glands.

It’s not like you walk into the Clevers lab and see large, teardrop-shaped drops floating in the jars. The cells shed tears on the inner part of the organ, which is called the lumen. This causes the organ to swell like a balloon, and the size indicates how much tears are produced and secreted.

This is not the first time that scientists have created components for the human eye from stem cells. In 2018, a team from John Hopkins University Parts of the eyeball Hopefully a better understanding of how and why we have developed “trichromatic vision” – the ability to see in red, blue, and green.

Dutch researchers acknowledge that there are limitations to the lacrimal gland, as it is made up of only one major cell type found in the gland. They say they ultimately want to grow a complete ruptured gland from the wider set of cells that make it up, and gain a stronger understanding of how we form tears.

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