Stem Cell Number

Counting human intestinal stem cells

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Science  22 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6199, pp. 887-888
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6199.887-e

The cells that line the intestine, called intestinal epithelial cells, turn over, meaning that old ones die and new ones take their place. Stem cells located at the base of fingerlike structures called intestinal crypts support this high rate of turnover. Baker et al. investigated how this process works using human cells. The authors traced the lineage of cells in human intestinal crypts by counting naturally occurring mitochondrial DNA mutations. They identified five to six stem cells per crypt, which itself divides about once every 30 to 40 years. People who had a mutation in the APC gene, common in colon cancer, had more stem cells, and their crypts divided at a faster rate.

Cell Rep. 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.07.019 (2014).

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