Rare Cells are ‘Window Into the Gut’ for the Nervous System
Enterochromaffin cells (blue) in finger-like projections within the gut villi (outlined in red) detect noxious chemicals. Image: Holly Ingraham/David Julius labs
Specialized cells in the gut sense potentially noxious chemicals and trigger electrical impulses in nearby nerve fibers, according to a new study led by UC San Francisco scientists.
“These cells are sensors, like a window looking into the contents of the gut,” said James Bayrer, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UCSF and one of the lead authors of the paper.
Using gut-mimicking “organoids” grown from mouse stem cells, the researchers showed how cells in the intestinal lining called enterochromaffin (EC) cells alert the nervous system to signs of trouble in the gut, from bacterial products to inflammatory food molecules.
The authors of the new study – published online in Cell on June 22, 2017 – said that understanding the role of EC cells in how the gut reacts, and overreacts, to chemical irritants could provide new approaches for treating gastrointestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). …