Tales from the crypt lead researchers to cancer discovery

March 30, 2012

Tales from the crypt are supposed to be scary, but new research from Vanderbilt University, the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and colleagues shows that crypts can be places of renewal too: intestinal crypts, that is. Intestinal crypts are small areas of the intestine where new cells are formed to continuously renew the digestive tract. By focusing on one protein expressed in our intestines called Lrig1, the researchers have identified a special population of intestinal stem cells that respond to damage and help to prevent cancer.

The research, published in the March 30 issue of Cell, also shows the diversity of stem cells in the intestines is greater than previously thought.

"Identification of these cells and the role they likely play in response to injury or damage will help advance discoveries in cancer," said Shawn Levy, Ph.D., faculty investigator at the HudsonAlpha Institute and an author on the study.

The intestines and colon are normally lined with a single layer of cells to absorb nutrients from food. There are regular small pockets in the intestines called crypts, where stem cells are gathered. Rapid turnover of the lining cells and replacement by new lining cells made in the crypt, keep the intestines and colon healthy and keep damaged cells from turning into cancerous ones.

The new paper demonstrates that, although the makeup of stem cells in the crypt is still controversial, one protein called Lrig1 can distinguish a group of long-lived cells at the base of the crypt. These Lrig1-positive stem cells do not regularly replace lining cells, but instead are only activated when there is damage or injury to the .

In addition, the researchers show that the Lrig1 to prevent cancer as a tumor suppressor molecule. When the protein is completely absent from a , the mice all develop and then tumors. This suggests that Lrig1 is an important target for understanding and treating intestinal and .

Levy added, "RNA sequencing work at HudsonAlpha found that the Lrig1-positive stem cells are molecularly different in multiple ways from previously identified crypt , in keeping with their role in responding to damage." Further work on genes expressed or silenced in this population of cells, he added, will increase understanding of both normal and cancer cell progression in the intestines.

Explore further: Newly identified stem cells may hold clues to colon cancer

More information: www.cell.com/

Related Stories

Newly identified stem cells may hold clues to colon cancer

March 29, 2012
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers have identified a new population of intestinal stem cells that may hold clues to the origin of colorectal cancer.

Tales from the crypt: Study on gut cell regeneration reconciles long-standing research controversy

November 11, 2011
The cells that help to absorb food and liquid that humans consume are constantly being produced. The various cell types that do this come from stem cells that reside deep in the inner recesses of the accordion-like folds ...

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.