Since gastric cancers often occur in the context of inflammation, we were interested to determine whether these progenitor cells are affected by inflammatory conditions, says Qiao.
We were amazed to see that though these cells are normally very quiescent, that is, they dont divide, inflammatory signaling proteins such as interferon gamma provide a potent stimulus for multiplication of these cells.
Just what specific role these progenitor cells may play in inflammation and cancer is not clear yet.
Are these cells good guys, bad guys or innocent bystanders" We just dont know, Gumucio says. They could be cells that are in some ways predisposed to being cancer cells. Alternatively, they could be important reservoirs for repair of damage caused by injury or inflammation. In that case, having more of them could be a good thing, she says.
These are probably not the only stem-like cells in the stomach, adds Qiao. This must be a subset of such cells, but they certainly represent an interesting subset, given their location in the stomach and their response to inflammation. The Gumucio lab is working with additional new markers to find other stem-like cells in the stomach.
The researchers suspect the effort to understand stomach stem cells and their possible relationship to cancer will take many more twists and turns. Any therapies or prevention methods resulting from this early research are years away. An important next immediate step is to look in human stomachs to see if this type of stem or progenitor cell can be identified.
|Contact: Anne Reuter|
University of Michigan Health System