Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Growing Gills

Understanding more about how stem cells can both maintain an organism's status quo and cause growth

03 July 2019

Growing Gills

Adult stem cells (ASCs) help keep our bodies ticking. These dormant undifferentiated cells are ready at a moment’s notice to generate new specialised cells that can replace old or damaged ones. ASCs also multiply to enable some vertebrates like fish to continue growing, even in adulthood. How can ASCs carry out two separate functions in parallel? To answer this, scientists studied the gills of medaka fish. Gills (one from a genetically-manipulated fish shown here in blue and green) operate many vital functions and their exposure to the elements means their different specialised cells need regular replacing. The team found that ASC function was determined by their positioning in fish gills. However, if the part of the gill containing growth ASCs was lost, homeostatic ASCs could take over and generate new growth ones. In future, understanding how flexible ASCs are in different species could help us identify new ways to use these types of cells in regenerative medicine.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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