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Scientists published the mechanism behind the maintenance of constant cell numbers of epithelial cells, in the journal Nature.

Epithelial cells are those in the skin, and the skin-like linings which cover the internal organs. These have a protective function which allows these organs to function properly. Cells turn is fast in epithelia. An equal number of cells must divide and die so that healthy cell densities are maintained. An imbalance in this can lead to abnormalities.

If more epithelial cells die than divide, the organ barrier function can get lost and inflammatory diseases like colitis and asthma can occur. On the other hand, if more epithelial cells divide than those that die, an overabundance of cells and tumor formation can occur.

The researchers found that the cell death and division process is regulated by mechanical tension. If cells get more crowded, some cells are popped out, which later die. This expulsion of cells enables the cell sheets to get back to their original densities.

This discovery adds to our understanding of the ways in which the cell death and division process go wrong, especially in those diseases like metastatic cancers and asthma.



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