The intestine in an adult human is about 20 feet long. Remarkably, about 40% of that length is gained before birth! Occasionally, children are born with a condition known as congenital short bowel syndrome (CSBS). In such cases, the fetal intestinal elongation process fails and the shortened intestine is not able to absorb enough nutrients to sustain life. Our lab is studying the cellular and molecular processes that drive intestinal growth in the fetus and investigating the mechanisms of growth inhibition in mouse models of CSBS. This image shows the embryonic small intestine of the mouse. The outlines of the cells are false colored in Michigan Maize and Blue. As it grows, the yellow tube at the center (that resembles the eye of Sauron) will generate finger-like folds that extend into the slit-like lumen, to generate the large surface area required for efficient nutrient absorption.
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