Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Stem cells respond to physical forces – inflation and collapse – in tissue to balance cell division needs

19 August 2021

New Balance

From skin to bones, cells throughout the body refresh and renew, fresh recruits replacing the old when wear and tear takes its toll. The intestine lining is a master of this, with a regular supply of fresh cells drawn from ‘stem cell zones’ – pools of cells ready to develop as needed. How these zones maintain their supply without overstepping and prompting the excessive growth of cancer is a key question in fundamental biology and health research. To investigate, researchers developed a new way to stabilise organoids – microscopic model systems – and image them regularly to observe and test development (one pictured growing over a week). They found that the physical forces resulting from swelling prompted stem cells to specialise into functional intestinal cells, but that the structure didn't maintain size and shape intrinsically, suggesting other mechanisms may be at play to keep a healthy balance in the body.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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