Understanding how the intestine replaces and repairs itself

Friday, July 14, 2017 - 14:32 in Biology & Nature

Researchers at Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Harvard Medical School have identified a previously unknown mechanism that plays an important role in the regeneration of the inner intestinal lining. Their findings provide new insights on how this tissue, which undergoes change on a daily basis, maintains itself. The intestine is the most highly regenerative organ in the human body, regenerating its lining, called the epithelium, every five to seven days. Continual cell renewal allows the epithelium to withstand the constant wear and tear it suffers while breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste. In a Cell Stem Cell study, the researchers found that mature cells, instead of other stem cells, were responsible for replenishing the stem cell population in the intestinal crypts — cavities at the bottom of hair-like structures in the intestine — of mice. “This is a very basic discovery that allows us to deeply understand how...

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