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Stem cells respond to physical forces – inflation and collapse – in tissue to balance cell division needs

19 August 2021

New Balance

From skin to bones, cells throughout the body refresh and renew, fresh recruits replacing the old when wear and tear takes its toll. The intestine lining is a master of this, with a regular supply of fresh cells drawn from ‘stem cell zones’ – pools of cells ready to develop as needed. How these zones maintain their supply without overstepping and prompting the excessive growth of cancer is a key question in fundamental biology and health research. To investigate, researchers developed a new way to stabilise organoids – microscopic model systems – and image them regularly to observe and test development (one pictured growing over a week). They found that the physical forces resulting from swelling prompted stem cells to specialise into functional intestinal cells, but that the structure didn't maintain size and shape intrinsically, suggesting other mechanisms may be at play to keep a healthy balance in the body.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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