Cancer of the esophagus is often aggressive and deadly and common anticancer treatments are not always effective. Interestingly, such cancers often initiate in a specific place: right at the boundary between the esophagus and the stomach. Currently, we do not fully understand why this site predisposes to such aggressive forms of cancer (especially in obese individuals) or how such cancers initiate. Our lab is using primary human esophagus cells derived from patients undergoing surgical procedures to mechanistically investigate the response of these cells to injury and explore their propensity to initiate cancerous development. The green color in the image marks human basal cells, which are the stem cells of the esophagus. The yellow marks differentiated cells. Since we co-culture these human esophagus cells with mouse fibroblasts for support, we use a specific human nuclear (Hu-Nu) antigen (red), to identify the human cells so that we can track responses of these cells specifically.
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