Posted on May 16, 2019, 5 p.m.
University of Copenhagen research published in Nature suggest that the destiny of intestinal cells may not be predetermined rather instead be determined by the cell’s surroundings, findings may make it easier to manipulate stem cells for therapies.
All cells in the fetal gut have the potential to develop into stem cells according to the study which discovered development of immature intestinal cells is not predetermined rather it is affected by the cell’s immediate surroundings in the intestines.
"We used to believe that a cell's potential for becoming a stem cell was predetermined, but our new results show that all immature cells have the same probability for becoming stem cells in the fully developed organ. In principle, it is simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Here signals from the cells' surroundings determine their fate. If we are able to identify the signals that are necessary for the immature cell to develop into a stem cell, it will be easier for us to manipulate cells in the wanted direction."
Organs in the body are maintained by stem cells which are also able to repair minor tissue damage, better understandings of factors that determine whether or not immature cell develop into stem cell may be useful for manipulating stem cell needed for studies, therapies or transplants.
“We have gained greater insight into the mechanisms through which cells in the immature intestines develop into stem cells. Hopefully we are able to use this knowledge to improve treatment of non-healing wounds, e.g. in the intestines. So far, though, all we can say for sure is that cells in the gastrointestinal tract have these characteristics. However, we do believe this is a general phenomenon in fetal organ development.”
Introducing luminescent protein into cells allowed the researchers to monitor development of individual cells using advanced microscopy. Fetal stem cells were previously believed to only be able to explain a fraction of intestinal growth during development. When examined more closely with collaboration from the University of Cambridge experts a hypothesis was reached of all intestinal cells having the same chance of becoming stem cell and subsequent tests confirmed their theory.
“The next step is to determine precisely which signals are necessary for immature cells to develop into the kind of stem cells we need. This is one of our research focuses.”
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