Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Colon Clues
31 August 2012

Colon Clues

Almost as long as a bus, our intestine comprises billions of cells, all of which play their part to supply the body with fuel. This slice through a mouse intestinal wall shows some of the main players: gut-lining epithelial cells (stained blue) and muscle cells (stained red) are held in place by a tough, fibrous membrane (stained green). Glands called crypts (black spaces above the dotted line) also do an important job, providing a constant supply of replacement epithelial cells to keep the gut running smoothly. But if this renewal process goes awry and an abnormal cell multiplies it could trigger bowel cancer. Microscope images alone can’t reveal how or why this happens. But the detailed cell map they provide has enabled scientists to construct a computer model of gut tissue and simulate its inner workings. The virtual gut could help them figure out what causes these glitches.

Written by Emma Stoye

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