Abstract

Intestinal glands in the small intestine and colon, or intestine crypts, are an important example of tissue homeostasis regulated by the extracellular environment. The crypts are invaginated structures made of a layer of cells that help absorb nutrients from passing food. However, they are continuously worn away by this process and are being continually renovated by stem cells at the bottom of the crypt. These stem cells divide to replace worn cells and may even displace other stem cells so that at a given time the whole crypt becomes monoclonal- a descendant of one single stem cell. From a theoretical standpoint, the time it takes to reach monoclonality is crucial to the understanding of colorectal cancer (CRC) as it offers a key metric for the establishment of cancer initiating mutations; however, the biggest biological contributor to this feature is highly debated. Three key hypotheses have been put forwards, which we investigated with ALife methods. We have abstracted key biological features and modelled them in a bottom-up Agent-Based Model that allowed us to study the biological first principles that rule the fixation of mutations, offering key spatial and temporal understanding of this process. Our results show that the number of basal stem cells have a direct influence on the fixations of mutations and suggesting a lesser role for extracellular influences, while proposing the existence of a threshold to the contribution of cell side displacement

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