04:21am Friday 15 December 2017

Stem cell transplant repairs damaged gut in mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease

The findings pave the way for patient-specific regenerative therapies for inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis.

All tissues in our body contain specialised stem cells, which are responsible for the lifelong maintenance of the individual tissue and organ. Stem cells found in adults are restricted to their tissue of origin, for example, stem cells found in the gut will be able to contribute to the replenishment of the gut whereas stem cells in the skin will only contribute to maintenance of the skin.

The team first looked at developing intestinal tissue in a mouse embryo and found a population of stem cells that were quite different to the adult stem cells that have been described in the gut. The cells were very actively dividing and could be grown in the laboratory over a long period without becoming specialised into the adult counterpart. Under the correct growth conditions, however, the team could induce the cells to form mature intestinal tissue.

When the team transplanted these cells into mice with a form of inflammatory bowel disease, within three hours the stem cells had attached to the damaged areas of the mouse intestine and integrated with the gut cells, contributing to the repair of the damaged tissue.

Dr Kim Jensen, a Wellcome Trust researcher and Lundbeckfoundation fellow, who led the study, said: “We found that the cells formed a living plaster over the damaged gut. They seemed to respond to the environment they had been placed in and matured accordingly to repair the damage.

“One of the risks of stem cell transplants like this is that the cells will continue to expand and form a tumour, but we didn’t see any evidence of that with this immature stem cell population from the gut.”

Cells with similar characteristics were isolated from both mice and humans and the team were also able to generate similar cells by reprogramming adult human cells, so called induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs), and growing them in the appropriate conditions.

“We’ve identified a source of gut stem cells that can be easily expanded in the laboratory, which could have huge implications for treating human inflammatory bowel diseases. The next step will be to see whether the human cells behave in the same way in the mouse transplant system and then we can consider investigating their use in patients,” added Dr Jensen.

The findings are published online today in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Image: Human embryonic stem cells. Credit: Annie Cavanagh, Wellcome Images

Contact

Jen Middleton
Senior Media Officer, Wellcome Trust
T +44 20 7611 7262
E j.middleton@wellcome.ac.uk

Notes to Editors

Reference
Fordham RP et al. Transplantation of expanded fetal intestinal progenitors contributes to colon regeneration after injury. Cell Stem Cell, 17 October 2013. [epub ahead of print]

About the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute
Based at the University of Cambridge, theWellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute draws together outstanding researchers from 25 stem cell laboratories in Cambridge to form a world-leading centre for stem cell biology and medicine. Scientists in the Institute collaborate to generate new knowledge and understanding of the biology of stem cells and provide the foundation for new medical treatments. The Institute is supported by a strategic funding partnership between the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.

About the Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.

About the Medical Research Council
Over the past century, the Medical Research Council has been at the forefront of scientific discovery to improve human health. Founded in 1913 to tackle tuberculosis, the MRC now invests taxpayers’ money in some of the best medical research in the world across every area of health. Twenty-nine MRC-funded researchers have won Nobel prizes in a wide range of disciplines, and MRC scientists have been behind such diverse discoveries as vitamins, the structure of DNA and the link between smoking and cancer, as well as achievements such as pioneering the use of randomised controlled trials, the invention of MRI scanning, and the development of a group of antibodies used in the making of some of the most successful drugs ever developed.

Today, MRC-funded scientists tackle some of the greatest health problems facing humanity in the 21st century, from the rising tide of chronic diseases associated with ageing to the threats posed by rapidly mutating micro-organisms. 

 The MRC Centenary Timeline chronicles 100 years of life-changing discoveries and shows how our research has had a lasting influence on healthcare and wellbeing in the UK and globally, right up to the present day.

About the University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge’s mission is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.  

Cambridge’s reputation for excellence is known internationally and reflects the scholastic achievements of its academics and students, as well as the world-class original research carried out by its staff. Some of the most significant scientific breakthroughs occurred at the University, including the splitting of the atom, invention of the jet engine and the discoveries of stem cells, plate tectonics, pulsars and the structure of DNA. From Isaac Newton to Stephen Hawking, the University has nurtured some of history’s greatest minds and has produced more Nobel Prize winners than any other UK institution with over 80 laureates.


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