Revealing how cells read the environment to regulate adult gut renewal

Year of award: 2017


  • Dr Golnar Kolahgar

    University of Cambridge

Project summary

The gut is composed of thousands of specialised cells allowing it to fulfil complex roles underpinning the health of the organism. While digesting food and fighting off pathogens, the gut must also maintain itself by replacing cells after they pass their ‘expiry date’. This relies on stem cells that divide to maintain the necessary number and type of cells. Our goal is to understand how the stem cells know how fast they are required to proliferate. This is important, because degenerative diseases or cancer can form when the information that instructs stem cells is not conveyed properly.

We will focus on discovering molecules that instruct cells to multiply in the gut and on understanding how gut distortion influences decisions about cell proliferation. We work with the intestine of the fruit fly Drosophila due to the ease with which it can be genetically manipulated and imaged using microscopy, its rapid life cycle and its cost-effectiveness.

As Drosophila shares 70% of its DNA with human disease genes, our research may contribute to the design of new therapies against a range of intestinal diseases.