There are topics in which biomedical interest merges with ethical interest. One of these is undoubtedly the subject of stem cells wich appears to be the biomedical science forefront. Few issues in the biomedical sciences arouse as much interest as these, and for this reason, the prestigious journal Nature Cell Biology will analyse a series of articles, two of which have now been published.
The first (Nature Cell Biology 18; 238-245, 2016) discusses evidence for and against the role that stem cells might play in cell maintenance and repair in the liver and pancreas, concluding that repair of these organs depends more on cells that are already mature than on the stem cells themselves.
The second (Nature Cell Biology, 18; 246-254, 2016) reviews the in vitro creation of human organoids (small human organ structures), since these are an essential weapon to improve our understanding of biological processes, and even for the development of new clinical applications. This article discusses the advances, problems and possible applications of these organoids, reviewing the historical aspects of their development, and types of organoids already obtained, which include tissues as varied as the lung, salivary glands, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, colon, liver, pancreas, prostate, lung, retina, ear, brain and kidney.
Many of these organoids have been developed from adult cells from the corresponding organs, both animal (mainly murine) and human, as well as from embryonic stem cells and iPS cells. Using embryonic stem cells in these experiments entails objective ethical problems that cannot be put aside.
The organoids obtained are being used for a wide range of purposes, ranging from basic research to their clinical application, i.e.