During the last 20 years intestinal mesenchymal cells (IMCs) have emerged as an important cell type that plays a central role in intestinal development and homeostasis, by providing both structural support and growth regulatory elements. IMCs also actively participate in wound healing responses, regulating thus pathologic conditions such as tissue repair, inflammation, fibrosis and carcinogenesis. Our lab is focused in the delineation of the characteristics, origin and functions of IMCs, as well as the molecular mechanisms that regulate them. Our aim is to address the hypothesis that mesenchymal cells in the intestine can be divided in distinct subpopulations with diverse origin during development and different contribution and function in homeostasis and disease pathogenesis, such as inflammation and cancer. We also propose that in inflammation and cancer, cells constituting the “disease-specific” mesenchymal cell pool could have different functions depending on their source and that the relative contribution of each cell type could affect disease initiation and progression.
To accomplish this we combine genetic targeting, cell lineage studies, animal models of disease and high-throughput technologies to identify and characterize these populations, define their origin and function during embryogenesis and examine their potential plasticity and relative contribution to the mesenchymal cell pool in health and disease. We aim to provide further insight into the biology and functions of intestinal mesenchymal cells, as well as their contribution to disease pathogenesis, challenge the way we view and study them and offer new potential for diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
Funding: Stavros Niarchos Foundation