Washington: Researches have successfully grown extensive numbers of intestinal stem cells and then coax them to develop into different types of mature intestinal cells.
For those living with gastrointestinal disorders, such as ulcers or Crohn's disease, treatment often means quelling uncomfortable symptoms through medications or dietary changes. But scientists at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are hoping that their new study will lead to a new treatment for the disease.
"Being able to produce a large inventory of intestinal stem cells could be incredibly useful for stem cell therapy, where the cells could be delivered to patients to treat diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis," Jeffrey Karp , PhD, Division of Biomedical Engineering, BWH Department of Medicine, said.
"These cells could also be useful for pharmaceutical companies to screen and identify new drugs that could regulate diseases from inflammatory bowel disease, to diabetes, to obesity. However, to date there hasn't been a way to expand intestinal stem cell numbers," Karp said.
In the "crypts" of the human gut are immature adult stem cells that live alongside specialized cells called Paneth cells. The stem cells remain immature as long as they remain in contact with Paneth cells.
But the researchers found that when Paneth cells are removed and replaced with two small molecules involved in cell signalling, these molecules could direct the stem cells to develop into pure populations of proliferating stem cell s. By introducing other molecules to the mix, the pure cells could further develop into specialized mature intestinal cells.
The study is published in journal Nature Methods.