Our intestines process around 50 tonnes of food and drink in a lifetime. It’s no wonder cells lining the intestines need frequent replacement. This is the job of stem cells found within intestinal crypts. A healthy gut reproduces its crypts through a process called crypt fission. When this goes awry abnormal growths, such as adenomas, occur. To better understand disease, we first need a handle on normal crypt fission. Researchers therefore investigated the roles of two major crypt cells – Paneth and stem cells – in lab-grown intestinal organoids. Growing organoids with different chemicals allowed the number of either Paneth cells or stem cells to be increased. Compared to a control organoid (left), more Paneth cells produced shorter, rounder crypts (right), while more stem cells produced longer crypts (middle). The relative position of these cells was also found to be key to kickstarting fission.
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