Stomach cells naturally revert to stem cells

October 10, 2013

New research has shown that the stomach naturally produces more stem cells than previously realized, likely for repair of injuries from infections, digestive fluids and the foods we eat.

Stem can make multiple kinds of specialized cells, and scientists have been working for years to use that ability to repair injuries throughout the body. But causing specialized adult cells to revert to and work on repairs has been challenging.

Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Utrecht Medical Center in the Netherlands report in the new study that a class of specialized cells in the reverts to stem cells more often than they thought.

"We already knew that these cells, which are called chief cells, can change back into stem cells to make temporary repairs in significant stomach injuries, such as a cut or damage from infection," said Jason Mills, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Washington University. "The fact that they're making this transition more often, even in the absence of noticeable injuries, suggests that it may be easier than we realized to make some types of mature, specialized revert to stem cells."

The findings are published Oct. 10 in Cell.

Chief cells normally produce for the stomach. Mills studies their transformation into stem cells for injury repair. He also is investigating the possibility that the potential for growth unleashed by this change may contribute to stomach cancers.

In the new report, Mills, graduate student Greg Sibbel and Hans Clevers, MD, PhD, a geneticist at Utrecht Medical Center, identify markers that show a small number of chief cells become stem cells even in the absence of serious injury.

If a significant is introduced in cell cultures or in animal models, more chief cells become stem cells, making it possible to fix the damage.

"Chief cells normally are big factories with elaborate networks of tubing and secretory mechanisms for making and secreting digestive juices," said Mills, the associate director of Washington University's Digestive Diseases Center. "That all has to be dismantled and recycled so the chief cell can become a stem cell. It's a remarkable change."

Mills' other goals include learning if the chief cells' transformations are triggered by signals sent by injured tissue, by damage sensors on the chief cells or by some combination of these methods.

More information: Stange DE, Koo BK, Huch M, Sibbel G, Basak O, Lyubimova A, Kujala P, Bartfeldt S, Koster J, Geahlen JH, Peters PJ, van Ese JH, van de Wetering M, Mills JC, Clevers H. Differentiated Troy + chief cells act as 'reserve' stem cells to generate all lineages of the stomach epithelium. Cell, published online Oct. 10, 2013.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Plant light sensors came from ancient algae

July 28, 2015

The light-sensing molecules that tell plants whether to germinate, when to flower and which direction to grow were inherited millions of years ago from ancient algae, finds a new study from Duke University.

Driving myelination by actin disassembly

July 27, 2015

(Phys.org)—If a metallurgist wanted to determine how a blade was made they might cut a small cross section, mount, polish, and etch it, and then look at it under a microscope. They could probably tell right away whether ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.