Scientists Can Now Grow Fallopian Tubes


There seems to be no end to science inventions. A group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin have started growing the Fallopian tubes — its innermost layers– on a Petri dish.

The Fallopian tubes, also known as the Oviduct or Uterine tubes are a part of the female reproductive system which connects the ovaries to the Uterus. During fertilization, an ovum breaks from the ovaries and enters the Fallopian tube, from where it starts moving towards the Uterus.

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Simple diagram of the female reproductive system

The scientists take stem cells from the epithelium, the mucous membrane that forms inside the tubes. Stem cells are cells that are capable of transforming into all the cell types that are needed to regenerate and maintain the organ. Since the goal is to try to recreate the cells that make up the Fallopian tube, scientists use the stem cells and try to replicate the conditions in the body that get the stem cells to grow and develop.

In simpler English, imagine growing a fish outside of its natural habitat. You wouldn’t plant it, or let it grow up like a human, you would try to grow it in an environment that is similar to its aquatic habitat– that is what these scientists do.

Fallopian tube epithelium cultivated in a petri dish with the help of stem cells. © MPI f. Infection Biology
Fallopian tube epithelium cultivated in a petri dish with the help of stem cells. © MPI f. Infection Biology

The researchers have realized that the cells have naturally developed into organoids– hollow spheres that look similar to real Fallopian tubes.  Additionally,  the replica also responds to hormones. With these results, the researchers are pretty close to developing the full organ. They have also found ways called Notch, and Wnt  to keep the stem cells regenerating the organ.

While the research could be used for transplants, its aim is to fully understand the organ and how it deals with infections. The Fallopian tubes are internal organs and this makes research and treatment of ovarian infections and cancer very difficult. Creating these artificial organs is a first step to understanding how these infections grow, and eventually combating them. Dr Mirjana Kessler, the first author of the study is optimistic about the cell’s ability to last long stating that,  “previously available models could only keep Fallopian tube epithelial cells alive for a few days. The ability to maintain the tissue-specific stem cells in culture, so they continuously replenish the cells means that these organoids can serve as research objects for much longer.”

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