The Kurashima Laboratory is a research group that hopes to unlock the untapped potential of mucosal mesenchymal cells. The team is based at Chiba University, Japan, and led by Professor Yosuke Kurashima, an Associate Professor in the School of Medicine. Several years ago, the laboratory discovered that mesenchymal cells play a more significant role in immune system health and maintaining tissue homeostasis than previously thought. Indeed, these cells are responsible for both terminal differentiation or maturation of immune cells, termed “peripheral education”, in the intestines and regulation of epithelial cell differentiation. Mesenchymal cells not only instruct immunocompetent cells, but also release cytokines like Wnt (a glycoprotein that plays a major role in the Wnt signalling pathway, which regulates important aspects of cell fate determination, cell migration and more). This function protects epithelial tissue impaired by inflammatory diseases and therefore maintaining epithelial barrier function. In addition, the complex mesenchymal cell support system has been found to be more than merely structural, in fact playing a key role in protecting the mucosal ecosystem from constant threats from environmental substances. Indeed, any alterations to mesenchymal cell function can cause organ dysfunction in the form of fibrosis. It is most recently reported that telocytes (a kind of mesenchymal cell) are major sources of Wnt. With important insights like this only just beginning to come to light, it appears that there is much more that the Kurashima Laboratory can learn about the complexity of mesenchymal cell populations. Indeed, the significance of the group’s research has even been recognised by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), who selected the Kurashima Laboratory as one of its “Leading Initiative for Excellent Young Researchers”.