Insight into how the intestine repairs damaged tissue: Scientists identify source essential for optimal intestinal repair after injury

Investigators at Cedars-Sinai and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have identified a component in the intestine that plays a critical role in repairing damaged tissue.

Scientists found that endothelial cells in the lymphatic vessels produce molecules that are essential for the maintenance and regulation of stem cells and tissues in the intestine. These lymphatic endothelial cells reside near specialized stem cell niches, which are microenvironments that support stem cell regeneration.

The findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Stem Cell.

“It’s important for us to understand niches and how lymphatics communicate with stem cells as part of the niche,” said Ophir Klein, MD, PhD, senior author of the study and executive director of Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s. “Deciphering the mechanisms that explain how the ecosystem that supports stem cells works will help to lay the foundation for future discoveries that could one day lead to therapeutic strategies to repair damaged tissue.”

The intestine undergoes continuous renewal to withstand the wear and tear that result from breakdown of foods, and from the presence of waste that can injure and kill cells. The intestine needs to replenish itself constantly with healthy cells, and fortunately, it has an exceptional capacity to regenerate cells.

The division of intestinal stem cells to make more cells is regulated by their surrounding niche, which is comprised of several cell types and is an essential source of signals. However, it is unclear which niche cells produce signals during different states of injury.

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