A study published in the March edition of Nature Methods describes how human embryonic stem cells were developed into human prostate tissue equivalent to that found in a young man, in just 12 weeks.
Co-first authors of the study, Monash Institute of Medical Research (MIMR) scientists PhD student Prue Cowin and Dr Renea Taylor (also from the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories), said the discovery will allow scientists to monitor the progression of the prostate from a normal to a diseased state for the first time.
"We need to study healthy prostate tissue from 15-25 year old men to track this process. Understandably, there is a lack of access to samples from men in this age group, so to have found a way we can have an ongoing supply of prostate tissue is a significant milestone," said Dr Taylor.
"As nearly every man will experience a problem with their prostate, we're very excited about the impact our research will have," she said.While prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, the impact of benign prostate disease (BPH) is equally significant - up to 90 percent of men will have BPH by the time they reach 80 years of age. BPH is not usually life-threatening, but has a dramatic impact on quality of life.
Prue Cowin said the discovery will allow scientists to observe first-hand the factors that play a role in the development of prostate disease.
"The tissue we've grown behaves as a normal human prostate, so it's the perfect model for testing the different hormones and environmental factors we believe play a role in the onset of prostate disease," said Prue.
"We grew the prostate tissue by 'telling' the embryonic stem cells how to become a human prostate gland. We then implanted the cells into mice, where they developed into a human prostate, secreting hormones and PSA;