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Wait for Force

Role of protein called vinculin in managing cell turnover in the gut revealed

01 January 2023

Wait for Force

We all need a little nudge sometimes, and a cautionary hand on the shoulder at others. Our cells are the same, and physical forces can dictate when they take action. Cells of the intestine renew rapidly, as new cells replace old when the physical burden of food processing wears them out. But how the reserve supply knows when to divide and develop from starter cells into mature absorptive cells isn’t well understood. Researchers examined the intestines of flies lacking vinculin – a protein important in determining cell fate and sensing mechanical forces. These flies developed enlarged guts (pictured, bottom) with excessive cell turnover (green) compared to normal flies (top), showing vinculin’s role in keeping precursor cells back until physical forces between cells are sufficient to trigger the need for a refresh. Understanding this mechanical management could help explain how changes in the process are linked to ageing, inflammation, and disease.

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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