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Int J Cancer. 2000 Apr 1;86(1):53-9.

Transforming growth factor-B3 protects murine small intestinal crypt stem cells and animal survival after irradiation, possibly by reducing stem-cell cycling.

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CRC Epithelial Biology Group, Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, Christie Hospital NHS Trust, Manchester, UK.


Damage to the normal replacing tissues of the body, specifically the gastro-intestinal tract, limits the treatment and hence, cure rate of cancer patients. Here, we investigate the possibility that the sensitivity of the gastro-intestinal tract can be manipulated by transforming growth factor beta3 (TGF-beta3), making it more resistant to radiation in a murine model. The effects of TGF-beta3 were assessed using the crypt microcolony assay, a test of crypt stem-cell functional competence, in animal survival studies examining diarrhoea severity, labelling index and crypt size. Prior treatment with TGF-beta3 can result in a 3- to 4-fold increase (protection factor, PF) in surviving crypts, whilst longer exposure can raise the PF to almost 12. Protection of intestinal clonogenic stem cells results in marked protection of survival with a corresponding reduction in the duration and level of diarrhoea and ultimate restoration of normal histology in surviving mice. Inhibition of proliferation can be demonstrated when sufficient TGF-beta3 exposure is studied. Crypt size is also reduced. In conclusion, TGF-beta3 protects small intestinal clonogenic stem cells from radiation damage, reducing diarrhoea and animal mortality. The mode of action is believed to be specific inhibition of stem-cell proliferation.

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