Scientific News

Journal of Experimental Medicine. CNIO researchers discover key mechanisms to improve intestinal regeneration and alleviate the side effects of radiotherapy


The discovery breaks new ground in research to counteract the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in patients with gastrointestinal cancer. Researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) identify cellular and molecular mechanisms essential for the regeneration of the intestinal mucosa, and propose a way to stimulate the process when it fails as a result of severe damage, such as that caused by radiotherapy. This study «holds the promise of reducing the adverse effects in traditional cancer treatments,» say the lead authors of the paper.

The intestine is very susceptible and is affected by the harsh conditions caused by DNA-altering agents, such as radiation and chemotherapy, during cancer treatment. For example, many patients with tumours in the gastrointestinal cavity receive radiotherapy, a treatment that often also damages the healthy intestine and affects its regenerative capacity. It is therefore very important to understand how intestinal epithelial regeneration occurs. The cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in this key process are not yet fully understood.

Researchers at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) have now discovered one of the cellular and molecular mechanisms essential for the regeneration of the intestinal epithelium. This finding lays the foundations for stimulating this process if it fails, and for protecting it against damage caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

According to the study, what prompts intestinal stem cells to regenerate the mucosa depends on the communication between different cell types in the epithelial tissue. The researchers have also found a way to intervene in this communication, and thereby, boost intestinal regeneration.

Paper: DOI:

The paper is published this week in Journal of Experimental Medicine. The research is led by the head of the CNIO’s Growth Factors, Nutrients and Cancer Group, Nabil Djouder, and Almudena Chaves-Pérez and Karla Santos-de-Frutos are first authors.

The group has spent years researching how to improve the regeneration of various organs—particularly the liver and intestinal mucosa—and thus mitigate the effects of radiotherapy. Their findings during this period have been published in high-impact journals.

The team at "Madrid es Ciencia"

Some members of our group volunteered in the XII edition of the “Madrid es Ciencia” fair as part of the madri+d foundation. In our stand, named “¿What do cells eat?”, we ran an interactive workshop to introduce a widespread audience to some of the key concepts of human biology, metabolism and cancer, and to encourage young students to take an interest and participate in scientific research.

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