TANFORD, Calif. – The stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori blamed for causing ulcers has been linked with increased stomach stem cell division in mice – and may explain why it is a risk factor for gastric cancer in humans.
The research was published in May’s edition of Gastroenterology.
Researchers used 3-D microscopy to see bacteria colonies in human stomach glands where stem cells replace the lining. About 50 percent of all people have H. pylori in their stomachs, they said, and while the majority of people remain asymptomatic, 15 percent of those infected with the bacteria will suffer from painful ulcers while another 1 percent will see stomach cancer – the third most lethal cancer worldwide.
The problem with gastric cancer, one researcher said, is while infections can be treated with antibiotics, the cancer shows no symptoms until it is too late.
By examining stem cells from deep within glands from stomach tissue removed during gastric surgery and then using mice as test subjects scientists now believe they have opened a new field of investigation regarding locating the roots of gastric cancer.