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Cancer Genet Cytogenet. 2006 Jan 1;164(1):16-24.

Bell-shaped nuclei dividing by symmetrical and asymmetrical nuclear fission have qualities of stem cells in human colonic embryogenesis and carcinogenesis.

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Biological Engineering Division, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, 02139, USA.


Large cell nuclei with at least eight distinct morphologies have been discovered throughout the fetal gut (5-7 weeks), colonic adenomas, and adenocarcinomas, five of which are not present in the normal adult colon. The most remarkable nuclear forms are hollow bells, approximately 10-15 microns in height and about 7-10 microns in bell mouth diameter. When encased in tubular syncytia, these bell-shaped structures divide symmetrically by an amitotic nuclear fission process resembling the separation of two paper cups. Seven other nuclear morphotypes emerge from the bell-shaped nuclei within the syncytia by asymmetrical amitotic nuclear fission. Cells containing these differentiated nuclear forms subsequently divide extra-syncytially by mitoses that form clonal populations of cells with identical nuclear morphotypes in embryos, adenomas, adenocarcinomas, and metastases. Cells with bell-shaped nuclei thus appear to be responsible for both net growth and differentiation in the embryonic gut, adenomas, and adenocarcinomas, and fulfill the requirements for post-embryonic stem cells in colon organogenesis and carcinogenesis.

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