Similar stem cells in insect and human gut

Watercolour by Edith M. Wallace

Adult fruitflies have been found to have the same stem cells controlling cell regulation in their gut as humans do – which could be significant in understanding human digestive disorders, including some cancers, and for developing cures.

It may come as a surprise, but insects have the same basic structure to their gastrointestinal tract as vertebrates. They have a mouth, an oesophagus, the equivalent to a stomach, and large and small intestines. (Here’s a confession: I have dissected countless insects – but this is something I haven’t given much thought to… and it certainly didn’t cross my mind that their stem cells might be the same as humans).

    “We’re excited because we know from previous experience that studying a process in a model system, such as the fruitfly, can greatly accelerate our understanding of the corresponding human process.”