Dual Role of Intestinal Stem Cells Identified – A Study!

34399_colon_polypThe role of stem cells in building the intestinal lining and causing bowel cancer has been identified by Professor Nick Barker and his team members in Singapore, at the Institute of Medical Biology.

A mutation in the intestinal stem cells can lead to bowel cancer according to this new study.

The intestinal stem cells which play a key role in maintaining the health of the intestine are also found to be the culprits of causing bowel cancer.

The team is working towards regenerating damaged tissues in diseases such as Crohn’s disease and some other cancers.

They succeeded in finding a gene that is specifically present in these stem cells. The team members then isolated these cells from mice models and were able to grow tiny pieces of intestine in the laboratory. In the near future, they hope to produce large chunks of intestine that can be replaced with the damaged tissue.

The task of processing food daily by the intestine leads to wearing off of the intestinal lining. Stem cells present along the surface in small pockets regenerate the lining on a weekly basis.

Although this aspect was known earlier, the researchers were not able to distinguish between the stem cells and other intestinal cells.

Through the gene present in these cells, they could isolate them. This gene was also found in the hair follicles, lining of the stomach and bowel cancer cells.

Considering these findings, Professor Barker opines that these stem cells can be used in two ways. The very first being the regeneration of huge intestinal parts to replace the damaged and worn out tissues through transplantation procedure. Secondly, by studying them thoroughly, the researchers can come up with novel ways to prevent these cells from mutating which can lead to the formation of tumors.

If the scientists succeed in controlling this dual role of intestinal stem cells, of causing and treating cancers, they can save lives of bowel cancer patients.

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