Rutgers Researchers Discover Crucial Link Between Brain and Gut Stem Cells
The organs in our bodies house stem cells that are necessary to regenerate cells when they become damaged, diseased or too old to function. Researchers at Rutgers University have identified a new factor that is essential for maintaining the stem cells in the brain and gut and whose loss may contribute to anxiety and cognitive disorders and to gastrointestinal diseases.
The study reveals the importance of the insulin-like growth factor II gene in adult stem cell maintenance in these two organs. The gene provides key support for the existence of two, functionally distinct sets of stem cells in the intestine, whose unregulated self-renewal and proliferation may contribute to colorectal cancers.
“The role that the insulin-like growth factor II gene plays in adult stem cells has been largely unknown. This growth factor was previously regarded as dispensable in adults,” said co-author Steven Levison, director of the Laboratory for Regenerative Neurobiology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “The discovery that there is a factor — this gene product — that is common between more than one adult stem cell population is remarkable.”