The study showed that bone marrow derived cells can differentiate into functional gastrointestinal epithelial cells after bone marrow transplantation. Research was from the laboratory of Diane Krause, M.D., professor of Laboratory Medicine and senior author of the study, in collaboration with Marie Egan, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics, respiratory medicine, and cellular and molecular physiology.
"We demonstrated that the cells were functional by showing that they express functional chloride channels (known as CFTR, or cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator) which are necessary for fluid balance in the gut," Krause said.
The researchers used mice that do not have this chloride channel. After bone marrow transplantation from donor mice that do have the chloride channel, recipient mice had some normal chloride channel activity.
Alhough this is exciting, the levels of donor derived gut cells are currently far too low to be used as a treatment for cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease in which the organs, especially those of the pancreas, lungs, and intestines, become clogged with thick mucus.
"We hope this finding will have implications for cystic fibrosis, but this is a first step and there are many, many more years of research to be done before we can determine this," said Krause.