A cell type with the potential for making the four major types of human tissue has been found in the stomach and small intestine by a Medical College of Georgia researcher. These VENT cells have been found in addition to the three sources of cells typically associated with gastrointestinal development, says Dr. Paul Sohal, MCG developmental biologist, who first identified these cells nearly a decade ago. Identification of VENT — ventrally emigrating neural tube — cells within the stomach and small intestine is another piece in Dr. Sohal’s effort to fully define and describe the cells that he first found migrating out from the neural tube of a chick embryo. If Dr. Sohal’s studies are on target, he’s found the first source of new cells identified in the embryo since 1868 and what might be the precursor for adult stem cells.
Gastroenterologists at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., report photodynamic therapy (PDT) appears to destroy the abnormal tissue of Barrett’s esophagus as well as superficial esophageal cancer. Here’s how PDT works. Patients are given an injection of a photosensitizing drug called porfimer sodium (Photofrin). Cells in the body absorb this drug. Normal cells get rid of it, but the drug tends to collect in premalignant and malignant cells. Two days after the injection of Photofrin, physicians insert and endoscope into the sedated patient’s esophagus. An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a miniature camera on its tip. Physicians deliver a specific wavelength of red laser light through the endoscope to the targeted cells. The laser light destroys the Photofrin-containing cells. Normal esophageal cells grow back in their place.