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Dr Vasanta Subramanian
Dr Vasanta Subramanian
Photo by Nic Delves Broughton, University Photographer

Internal News - 12 December 2007

New project to investigate gut stem cells

New research at the University of Bath is hoping to shed light on the stem cells that help maintain the surfaces of the gut.

These stem cells have the capacity to transform or differentiate into a range of specialised cell types necessary for the gut to perform its functions.

In the gut, the stem cells are produced in structures known as the crypts of Lieberkühn which are found at the bottom of the complex folds of the gut.

They provide a continuing source of replacement specialised cells to the absorptive surface of the gut, which come under constant attack from the substances we consume.

When the maintenance of this process breaks down, serious problems can occur, as for example, colon cancer, which is one of the biggest killers in the developed world.

“A better understanding of gut stem cells and how they maintain the lining of the intestine could help develop treatments for colon cancers in the future,” said Dr Vasanta Subramanian, from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry, who is leading the research.

“Stem cells offer us a great opportunity to develop treatments for several medical conditions.

“The key to this is understanding how the stem cells are maintained and how they give rise to specialised cells.”

The research is funded by a £417 k three-year grant from the Medical Research Council.