Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Bone to Belly
19 February 2012

Bone to Belly

Packed with potential for tissue regeneration therapies and for understanding diseases, stem cells are producing new cells everywhere, including our intestines. Studies in mice help researchers discover what stem cells are capable of. Here is a cross-section of gut wall from a female mouse that has been injected with bone marrow from a male mouse. Stem cells in the marrow have embedded themselves in tiny crevices. The Y-chromosomes marking the male cells that grew from the bone marrow are highlighted as green spots. Green spots are seen in myofibroblast cells which make gut wall muscle (dark blue areas) and in immune cells (red) but not in cells in the outermost gut wall layer, the epithelium. Bone marrow transplants for sufferers of chronic and debilitating Crohn’s Disease, which can destroy the gut wall, are already being trialled while biologists continue to expand their understanding of stem cells.

Written by Alice Lighton

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