It’s good to have a backup plan
Our lungs are amazing things. They take in the air we breathe and move it into our blood so that oxygen can be carried to every part of our body. They’re also surprisingly large. If you were to spread out a lung – and I have no idea why you would want to do that – it would be almost as large as a tennis court.
But lungs are also quite vulnerable organs, relying on a thin layer of epithelial cells to protect them from harmful materials in the air. If those materials damage the lungs our body calls in local stem cells to repair the injury.
Now researchers at the University of Iowa have identified a new group of stem cells, called glandular myoepithelial cells (MECs), that also appear to play an important role in repairing injuries in the lungs.
These MECs seem to be a kind of “reserve” stem cell, waiting around until they are needed and then able to spring into action and develop into new replacement cells in the lungs.
In a news release study author Preston Anderson, said these cells could help develop new approaches to lung regeneration:
“We demonstrated that MECs can self-renew and differentiate into seven distinct cell types in the airway. No other cell type in the lung has been identified with this much stem cell plasticity.”
The study is published in Cell Stem Cell.
Your bowels are unique
Not to worry, that’s a plastic model of a bowel
If you are eating as you read this, you should either put your food down or skip this item for now. A new study on bowel cancer says that every tumor is unique and every cell within that tumor is also genetically unique.
Researchers in the UK and Netherlands took samples of normal bowel tissue and cancerous bowel tissue from three people with colorectal cancer. They then grew these in the labs and turned them into mini 3D organoids, so they could study them in greater detail.
In the study, published in the journal Nature, the researchers say they found that tumor cells, not surprisingly, had many more mutations than normal cells, and that not only was each bowel cancer genetically different from each other, but that each cell they studied within that cancer was also different.
In a news release, Prof Sir Mike Stratton, joint corresponding author on the paper from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said:
“This study gives us fundamental knowledge on the way cancers arise. By studying the patterns of mutations from individual healthy and tumour cells, we can learn what mutational processes have occurred, and then look to see what has caused them. Extending our knowledge on the origin of these processes could help us discover new risk factors to reduce the incidence of cancer and could also put us in a better position to create drugs to target cancer-specific mutational processes directly.”
California Cures: a great title for a great book about CIRM
CIRM Board Chair Jonathan Thomas (L) and Don Reed
One of the first people I met when I started working at CIRM was Don Reed. He impressed me then with his indefatigable enthusiasm, energy and positive outlook on life. Six years later he is still impressing me.
Don has just completed his second book on stem cell research charting the work of CIRM. It’s called “California Cures: How the California Stem Cell Research Program is Fighting Your Incurable Disease”. It’s a terrific read combining stories about stem cell research with true tales about Al Jolson, Enrico Caruso and how a dolphin named Ernestine burst Don’s ear drum.
On his website, Stem Cell Battles, Don describes CIRM as a “scrappy little stage agency” – I love that – and says:
“No one can predict the pace of science, nor say when cures will come; but California is bringing the fight. Above all, “California Cures” is a call for action. Washington may argue about the expense of health care (and who will get it), but California works to bring down the mountain of medical debt: stem cell therapies to ease suffering and save lives. We have the momentum. We dare not stop short. Chronic disease threatens everyone — we are fighting for your family, and mine!”