Isolation of exfoliated colonocytes from human stool as a new technique for colonic cytology
Cell exfoliation in the gut is an important cell renewal mechanism. To approach its investigation we applied a novel immunomagnetic technique for isolation of exfoliated cells from human stool. Exfoliated colonocytes were isolated from 168 stool samples. The cells were assessed microscopically using conventional stains and immunohistochemistry. The technique allowed us to obtain well-preserved colonocytes displaying characteristic features of well-differentiated colonic epithelium and positive immunostaining for cytokeratin 5/8. No mucin-producing cells were found. Exfoliated cells did not produce inducible nitric oxide synthase, albeit cultured colon carcinoma cells HT-29 analysed in parallel showed strong immunostaining. Analysis of exfoliated cell numbers in consecutive stool samples from the same subjects revealed considerable interindividual variation. Overall exfoliated colonocyte numbers were relatively low, isolation being unaffected by addition during the procedure of excessive amounts of HT-29 cells. Apoptosis was extremely rare among exfoliated colonocytes. Well-preserved exfoliated colonocytes can be consistently isolated from human faeces using a simple procedure. Our findings suggest that the actual process of cell exfoliation in the human colon may be much less intense than is generally accepted. Exfoliated cell isolation from human stool constitutes a convenient non-invasive approach that can be used for diagnostic and research purposes.