Scientists announce human intestinal stem cell 'breakthrough' for regenerative medicine

September 04, 2011

Human colon stem cells have been identified and grown in a lab-plate for the first time. This achievement, made by researchers of the Colorectal Cancer Lab at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and published in Nature Medicine, is a crucial advance towards regenerative medicine.

Throughout life, stem cells of the colon regenerate the inner layer of our large intestine in a weekly basis. For decades scientists had evidences of the existence of these cells yet their identity remained elusive. Scientists led by the ICREA Professor and researcher at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) Eduard Batlle discovered the precise localization of the stem cells in the human colon and worked out a method that allows their isolation and in vitro expansion, that is their propagation in lab-plates. Growing cells outside the body generally requires providing the cells in a lab-plate with the right mix of nutrients, growth factors and hormones. But in the same way that each of the more than 200 types of cells in our body differs from the others so too do optimal growing conditions in the lab. Consequently, human adult stem cell culture in labs has been a truly impossible mission until now. Batlle's team has also established the conditions for maintain living human colon stem cells (CoSCs) outside of the human body: "This is the first time that it has been possible to grow single CoSCs in lab-plates and to derive human intestinal stem cell lines in defined conditions in a lab setting," explains the IRB Barcelona researcher Peter Jung, first author of the study together with Toshiro Sato, from the University Medical Center Utrecht in The Netherlands.

The development, published by Batlle's research group in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine, arrives after more than 10 years of intense research focused on the characterization of the biology of the intestinal stem cells and its connection with cancer. The research has been made possible by close collaboration between Batlle's team and the group led by Hans Clevers at the Hubretcht Institute and University Medical Center Utrecht in The Netherlands, and María A. Blasco at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre in Madrid (Spain). "For years, scientists all over the world have been trying to grow intestinal tissue in lab-plates; testing different conditions; using different nutritive media. But because the vast majority of cells in this tissue are in a differentiated state in which they do not proliferate, they survived only for a few days", explains Jung. "The aim of this study was to find a way to identify and select individual CoSCs and to grow them while maintaining their undifferentiated and proliferative state in lab conditions. Thus, we would be able to model how they grow --in number-- and differentiate into normal intestinal epithelial cells in lab-plates", continues Jung. The scientific community now has a defined 'recipe' for isolating CoSCs and deriving stable CoSCs lines, which have the capacity to grow undifferentiated for months. In fact, "now we can maintain stem cells in a plate up to 5 months or we can induce these cells to differentiate artificially, as they do inside our bodies".

"This achievement opens up an exciting new area of research with the potential to bring about a huge breakthrough in regenerative medicine", says Jung. Regenerative medicine -- or the idea of repairing the body by developing new tissues and organs as the old ones wear out-- involves growing new cells from patients into tissues and organs in a lab. However, the main element for making regenerative medicine a reality, namely adult stem cells, are just starting to be understood. "Now that guidelines for growing and maintaining colon stem cells in the lab are in place, we have an ideal platform that could help the scientific community to determine the molecular bases of gastrointestinal cell proliferation and differentiation. It is also suspected that alterations in the biology of CoSCs are at origin of several diseases affecting the gastrointestinal tract, such as colorectal cancer or Crohn's disease, an autoimmune and inflammatory disorder. Our discovery also paves the way to start exploring this exciting field," finishes Jung.
-end-


Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

Related Stem Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

SUTD researchers create heart cells from stem cells using 3D printing
SUTD researchers 3D printed a micro-scaled physical device to demonstrate a new level of control in the directed differentiation of stem cells, enhancing the production of cardiomyocytes.

More selective elimination of leukemia stem cells and blood stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells from a healthy donor can help patients suffering from acute leukemia.

Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells
Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW - The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute in Münster (Germany) have revealed how an essential protein helps to activate genomic DNA during the conversion of regular adult human cells into stem cells.

First events in stem cells becoming specialized cells needed for organ development
Cell biologists at the University of Toronto shed light on the very first step stem cells go through to turn into the specialized cells that make up organs.

Surprising research result: All immature cells can develop into stem cells
New sensational study conducted at the University of Copenhagen disproves traditional knowledge of stem cell development.

The development of brain stem cells into new nerve cells and why this can lead to cancer
Stem cells are true Jacks-of-all-trades of our bodies, as they can turn into the many different cell types of all organs.

Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ.

New method grows brain cells from stem cells quickly and efficiently
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a faster method to generate functional brain cells, called astrocytes, from embryonic stem cells.

NUS researchers confine mature cells to turn them into stem cells
Recent research led by Professor G.V. Shivashankar of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology in Italy, has revealed that mature cells can be reprogrammed into re-deployable stem cells without direct genetic modification -- by confining them to a defined geometric space for an extended period of time.

Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.

Read More: Stem Cells News and Stem Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.