Before this work, we knew that stem cells existed in the stomach, but we had no way to precisely identify them, says Gumucio, who directs the U-M Center for Organogenesis and is a professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the U-M Medical School.
There were no effective markers or tags that we could use to clearly discriminate the stem or progenitor cells from other cells. Now, for the first time, we have the experimental tools to ask important questions, like, Does stomach cancer really arise from mutations in this progenitor cell population"
Stomach cancer is a major cancer killer outside the United States. It is the most common
cause of cancer deaths in much of East Asia and Latin America. In the United States, it is estimated that 21,260 people will be diagnosed with stomach cancer and 11,210 will die of it in 2007.
There are several types of stomach cancer, but one very prevalent type, called intestinal-type gastric adenocarcinoma, progresses through a defined series of steps. Initially, the insult is an inflammatory one, usually through infection by an acid-tolerant bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. The chronic inflammation eventually leads to changes in the character of the surrounding stomach cells and ultimately, over several years, to tumors. These tumors often arise in one particular area of the stomach. Interestingly, the progenitor cells that the Gumucio lab has identified are concentrated precisely in this tumor-prone area.
To spot and watch the progenitor cells at work, Gumucios team, under lead author Xiaotan T Qiao, Ph.D., a U-M Medical School research associate, had to get past the hurdle that has deterred the search for stomach stem cells so far finding effective markers, which act like identification tags to make tracing possible. Qiao was able to identify the gastric progenitor cells and later explore their behavior because the cells
|Contact: Anne Reuter|
University of Michigan Health System