"Stimulating Cell Production Is an Attractive Strategy in Degenerative Diseases"
28 Jun, 2006 11:24 am
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have identified an important mechanism that regulates how many new cells are produced by each intestinal stem cell. The study is published in the latest issue of Cell. Jonas Fris?n, co-author of the report, answers Scitizen's questions.
Stem cells divide to give rise to new cells. The new cells divide several more times, giving an amplification effect.
Why is it important that this production remains regulated?
If you get too many cells you get a tumour. Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers. If you prodice too few cells the tissue undergoes atrophy.
What have you learned about the regulation mechanism in the intestine?
That a class of receptors called EphB are important regulators (1). They account for about 50% of the stimulating signal: without these receptors 50% less cells are born.
Can you explain in non-technical terms how did you proceed?
We analyzed mice where receptor signaling was increased or decreased.
Can this regulation mechanism be the same in other part of the body?
Yes. We have found that the same family of molecules is expressed by stem cells in other organs. We already know that they are important regulators of nerve cell production in the brain.
Do you see any application of your finding?
Stimulating cell production is an attractive strategy in degenerative diseases. By finding the mechanisms for how cell production is regulated it may be possible to develop pharmaceuticals that affect this process.
What are the next steps now?
To study additional organs like skin and blood and to test whether affecting this pathway in animal models of human diseases may alleviate symptoms.
(1) Johan Holmberg et al., Cell, June 16, 2006