PerspectiveDevelopment

Esophageal Stem Cells, Where Art Thou?

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Science  31 Aug 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6098, pp. 1051-1052
DOI: 10.1126/science.1227506

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Summary

The stem cell biology of the esophageal epithelium is an unresolved area in biomedical research. The field has major clinical implications, as esophageal cancer is a common cause of malignancy-related death, accounting for more than 500,000 deaths per year worldwide (1). Despite decades of research, there is little consensus regarding how this epithelium is maintained. On page 1091 of this issue, Doupé et al. (2) show that the esophageal epithelium is generated by a single population of cells that divide randomly into differentiated or proliferative progeny. Their finding contrasts with the prevailing hypothesis that stem cells underlie homeostasis of the tissue.