Fox Chase Cancer Center researcher publishes new findings on the developmental origin of liver and pancreas

PHILADELPHIA (February 27, 2001) -Research conducted at Fox Chase Cancer Center shows that cells which develop into the liver can also give rise to part of the pancreas, according to a new study published in the March issue of Development, Volume 128(6). The finding counters the assumption that during the early stages of mammalian development, the liver and pancreas cells develop from separate lineages.

Kenneth S. Zaret, Ph.D. and his research team had originally been studying the development of the liver in mouse embryos, and then discovered that the ventral part of the pancreas develops at the same time as the liver and from the same general domain of endoderm cells.

Different domains of the endoderm, an early embryonic tissue, normally differentiate into liver, lung, pancreas, thyroid, and intestine; yet how these diverse tissue domains are specified, and whether each tissue domain can give rise to other tissue derivatives, has been unclear. Differentiation is the process whereby embryonic cells become specialized in structure and function, and organize into the tissues and organs that make up the adult organism.

The goal of this research was to understand basic principles by which different cell types arise from a common cell population.

Dr. Zaret's group hypothesized that early embryonic cells that normally become the liver may also have the capacity to become the ventral part of the pancreas. They previously developed techniques for isolating cells from the ventral endoderm of a mouse embryo and for culturing the cells in the laboratory, allowing the researchers to closely follow the generation of the liver or pancreatic cell lineages.

Earlier, they used this culture method to show that fibroblast growth factor (FGF), a signal secreted from embryonic heart tissue, would cause nearby ventral endoderm cells to initiate liver development.

The embryonic liver normally originates next to the cardiac domain. In the present study, D

Contact: Anjou K. Dargar
Fox Chase Cancer Center

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