In yet another success in stem cell research, University of Pennsylvania scientists have found stem cell in the esophagus of mice are able to grow into tissue-like structures and when placed into immune-deficient mice were able to form parts of an esophagus lining.
The researchers set out to identify and characterize potential stem cells–those with the ability to self renew–in the esophagus to understand normal biology and how injured cells may one day be repaired.
The investigators then tested their pieces of esophageal lining in whole animals. When the tissue-engineered patches were transplanted under the skin of immunodeficient mice, the cells formed epithelial structures. Additionally, in a mouse model of injury of the esophagus in a normal mouse, which mimics what happens during acid reflux, green-stained stem cells migrated to the injured lining cells and co-labeled with the repaired cells, indicating involvement of the stem cells in tissue repair and regeneration.
Eventually the researchers will develop genetically engineered mouse models to be able to track molecular markers of esophageal stem cells found in a micorarray study. The group has already developed a library of human esophageal cell lines and is looking for human versions of markers already identified in mice.