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Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have found a hormone that could help reverse a disorder that can cause malnutrition in some babies. The disorder causes the inadequate absorption of nutrients, which leads to the need for IV feeding.

Scientists discovered the hormone using organoids grown from stem cells. The organoids allowed them to further understand how nutrients, particularly protein and carbohydrates, are absorbed by the body. They found enteroendocrine cells control absorption in the gut. Babies without functional cells can’t properly absorb nutrients.

“This study allowed us to understand how important this one rare cell type is in controlling how the intestine absorbs nutrients and functions on a daily basis,” Heather A. McCauley, a research associate at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and lead author of the paper, told us.

Cincinnati Children’s started the program to make organoids from stem cells in 2006.

“What this study highlights is how decades of basic research into how organs are made and how they function is now leading to breakthroughs in identifying new therapeutics,” said James Wells, senior author of the study and chief scientific officer of the Center for Stem Cell and Organoid Medicine (CuSTOM) at Cincinnati Children’s.