Intestinal myofibroblasts: Targets for stem cell therapy

R. C. Mifflin, I. V. Pinchuk, J. I. Saada, D. W. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


The subepithelial intestinal myofibroblast is an important cell orchestrating many diverse functions in the intestine and is involved in growth and repair, tumorigenesis, inflammation, and fibrosis. The myofibroblast is but one of several α-smooth muscle actin-positive (α-SMA+) mesenchymal cells present within the intestinal lamina propria, including vascular pericytes, bone marrow-derived stem cells (mesenchymal stem cells or hematopoietic stem cells), muscularis mucosae, and the lymphatic pericytes (colon) and organized smooth muscle (small intestine) associated with the lymphatic lacteals. These other mesenchymal cells perform many of the functions previously attributed to subepithelial myofibroblasts. This review discusses the definition of a myofibroblast and reconsiders whether the α-SMA+ subepithelial cells in the intestine are myofibroblasts or other types of mesenchymal cells, i.e., pericytes. Current information about specific, or not so specific, molecular markers of lamina propria mesenchymal cells is reviewed, as well as the origins of intestinal myofibroblasts and pericytes in the intestinal lamina propria and their replenishment after injury. Current concepts and research on stem cell therapy for intestinal inflammation are summarized. Information about the stem cell origin of intestinal stromal cells may inform future stem cell therapies to treat human inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G684-G696
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011


  • Bone marrow stem cells
  • Bone marrow transplantation
  • Crohn's disease
  • Epimorphin
  • Fibroblast activation protein
  • Fibroblastspecific protein 1
  • Hematopoietic stem cells
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Injury and repair
  • Lymphatic lacteal
  • Mesenchymal cells
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Muscularis mucosae
  • NG2
  • Patched
  • Pericytes
  • Periostin
  • Stromal cells
  • Thy-1
  • Thymic antigens
  • α-smooth muscle actin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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