Breakthrough research reveals key biomolecule behind gut repair

A strong, healthy lining in the gut is essential to overall health and well-being, as it serves as a barrier to protect our gut from billions of harmful toxins and microbes in the intestinal tract. When this protection is damaged by infection and inflammation, many painful symptoms will occur and can lead to gastrointestinal diseases. A key biomolecule is found to enhance the repair of the gut lining, according to a new study.

It works by prompting stem cells to regenerate damaged tissue, say, scientists. This is a first in the world of gut health! 

Repairing Damaged Cells

Using tiny replicas of gut tissue that was grown in a dish, the study defined key cells that reside close to stem cells in the gut that produce Neuregulin-1. This is a biomolecule that acts directly on stem cells to begin the repair process on damaged cell lining.

Fluorescent picture of an intestinal organoid (stained for the proliferation marker Ki-67 (white), the stem cell marker Ephb2 (red) and DNA (blue).
(Image credit: Monash BDI)

“Our really important discovery is that supplementation with additional Neuregulin-1 accelerates repair of the gut lining by activation of key growth pathways,” says Professor Abud of Monash University in a recent statement.

Diseases in the intestine have been identified as major health issues worldwide, and untreated symptoms, including diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, and malnutrition, resulting in severe damage to the cell layer that lines the gut. Developments in intestinal tissue repair will lead to a dramatic improvement in patient recovery, according to the study.

“Our findings open new avenues for the development of Neuregulin 1-based therapies for enhancing intestinal repair and supporting the rapid restoration of the critical gut function,” states Abud. 

“It was very exciting to observe that Neuregulin 1 can not only drive cells to divide but enhances stem cell properties which supercharge these cells into a repair program,” says Dr. Jardé.

Helping Cancer Recovery

The findings in this study could also help in the recovery of cancer patients who have been through chemotherapy treatments. 

Pushing the damaged cells into repair mode quickly could accelerate the time it takes to recover from diseases and treatments. “This shortens the period of damage. The gut lining is injured during common chemotherapy treatment for cancer and we were also able to show recovery is significantly improved with the application of Neuregulin-1 following chemotherapy,” adds Dr. Jardé.

The complete study can be found in Cell Stem Cell.

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