1,100 Words

How Gut Walls Get Their Wave

The walls of our guts are lined with finger-like protrusions called villi (green), which absorb nutrients from our food, and pockets called crypts (purple), which provide homes to stem cells. Duke cellular biologist Kaelyn Sumigray wants to know how the crypts get their pitted shape. In a new study on mice, she found that specific genes direct rows of cells to constrict on one side and expand on the other, forming curves in the intestinal wall like the bending of a slinky. Understanding how these crypts form will help researchers figure out their role in nurturing adult stem cells.