Åsa Kolterud, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Karolinska Institute, Sweden
The colon is made of billions of flask-like structures called glands (shown in red). In colon cancer, tumors develop from these epithelial cells. The green/aqua cells in the center of the picture are part of the connective tissue. Many of these cells are immune cells that function to protect the colon from invasive bacteria. The immune cells and epithelial cells communicate with each other using soluble proteins as messages. We are trying to understand the nature of this cellular cross-talk. In inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), this communication is compromised and proteins secreted by the normally protective immune cells damage the epithelial cells.