New associations between diet, intestinal stem cells and disease have been discovered-ScienceDaily

The gut is essential for maintaining our energy balance and is a master of rapid response to changes in nutrition and nutritional balance. It can do this with the help of enterocytes, which specialize in the absorption of food ingredients or the secretion of hormones. In adults, enterocytes regenerate every 5-7 days. The ability to constantly regenerate and develop all types of enterocytes from intestinal stem cells is critical to the natural adaptability of the digestive system. However, a long-term diet high in sugar and fat can disrupt this adaptation and contribute to the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and gastrointestinal cancer.

The molecular mechanism behind this maladaptation is part of the research field of Heiko Lickert and Helmholtz Munich and his group at Technische Universität München. Scientists believe that intestinal stem cells play a special role in maladaptation. Researchers used a mouse model to investigate the effects of a high-sugar and high-fat diet and compared it to a control group.

From a high-calorie diet to an increased risk of gastrointestinal cancer

“The first thing we noticed was that a high-calorie diet significantly increased the size of the small intestine,” says research leader Anika Betcher. “We worked with Helmholtz Munich’s Fabian Theis Computational Biologist Team to profile 27,000 enterocytes in mice fed a control diet and a high-fat / high-sugar diet. Using new machine learning techniques, enterocyte stem cells. We found that cells divide and differentiate. In mice on an unhealthy diet, they are significantly faster. ”The researchers said this was due to the upregulation of the associated signaling pathways. It is assumed to be associated with accelerated tumor growth in many cancers. “This can be an important link. Diet affects metabolic signaling, causes overgrowth of intestinal stem cells, and ultimately increases the risk of gastrointestinal cancer,” says Betcher.

With the help of this high-resolution technology, researchers were also able to study rare cell types in the intestine, such as hormone-secreting cells. In their findings, they were able to show that an unhealthy diet leads to a decrease in serotonin-producing cells in the gut. This can result in intestinal inertia (typical of diabetes) or increased appetite. In addition, this study showed that resorbing cells adapt to a high-fat diet, increase their function, and thus directly promote weight gain.

Important basic research for non-invasive treatment

These and other discoveries from research lead to a new understanding of the mechanisms of disease associated with high-calorie diets. “What we have discovered is very important for developing alternative non-invasive therapies,” research leader Heiko Likert said in summarizing the results. To date, there is no pharmacological approach to prevent, stop, or reverse obesity and diabetes. Only obesity surgery causes permanent weight loss and can even lead to amelioration of diabetes. However, these surgeries are invasive, irreversible, and costly to the medical system. New non-invasive treatments can occur at hormonal levels, for example through targeted regulation of serotonin levels. The research group will consider this approach and other approaches in future research.

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