An international research team has become the first to isolate and grow adult stem cells from human colon. Scientists have long known that throughout life, adult stem cells of the colon regenerate the inner layer of our large intestine on a weekly basis. But it has previously been impossible to grow these adult stem cells successfully in the laboratory. Working together, scientists from Spain, Japan, and the Netherlands have established the conditions to maintain living human colon stem cells (CoSCs) outside of the human body long-term: According to first author Peter Jung:

"This is the first time that it has been possible to grow single CoSCs in lab-plates and to derive human intestinal stem cell lines in defined conditions in a lab setting. Now we can maintain stem cells in a plate up to 5 months or we can induce these cells to differentiate artificially, as they do inside our bodies. This achievement opens up an exciting new area of research with the potential to bring about a huge breakthrough in regenerative medicine,"

According to Jung, the main elements for making regenerative medicine a reality, namely adult stem cells, are just starting to be understood. The ability to grow and study colon stem cells in the lab may lead to insights regarding numerous intestinal diseases, including Crohn's disease. The report is publshed in the journal Nature Medicine.