Similar stem cells in insect and human gut
The research is important for understanding digestive disorders, including some cancers, and for developing cures. "The fact that fruitflies have the same genetic programming in their intestines as humans, strongly suggests that we were both cut from the same evolutionary cloth more than 500 million years ago," stated lead author of the December 7, on-line Nature paper, Benjamin Ohlstein.
It may come as a surprise, but insects have the same basic structure to their gastrointestinal tract as vertebrates. They have a mouth, an esophagus, the equivalent to a stomach, and large and small intestines. The Carnegie researchers looked at their small intestines, where food is broken down into its constituent nutrients for the body to absorb. They focused on two cell types-- cells that line the small and large intestines in a single layer to help break up and transport food molecules, called enterocytes; and cells that produce peptide hormones, some of whose functions include regulation of gastric motility as well as growth and differentiation of the gut (enteroendocrine cells).
|Watercolor illustration of Drosophila. (Photo: Edith M. Wallace/Carnegie Institution)|
Allan Spradling, co-author, director of the Carnegie department, and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator commented, "We're excited because we know from previous experience that studying a process in a model system, such as the fruitfly, can greatly accelerate our understanding of the corresponding human process."
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