Forsyth Institute scientists have discovered an important mechanism for controlling the behavior of adult stem cells. Research with the flatworm, planaria, found a novel role for the proteins involved in cell-to-cell communication. This work has the potential to help scientists understand the nature of the messages that control stem cell regulation such as the message that maintain and tells a stem cell to specialize and to become part of an organ e.g.: liver or skin.
In recent years, planarians have been recognized as a great model system to molecularly dissect conserved stem cell regulatory mechanisms in vivo. Planarians have powerful regeneration capability that makes them ideal for studying this process. The Forsyth team uses planarians and other animal models to study development and regeneration.
The Forsyth team will publish this research in the August 16 issue of Development. According to the papers lead author, Nstor J. Oviedo, a postdoctoral fellow in the Forsyth Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, this work, highlighting the importance of direct cell-cell transfer of small molecules between stem cells and their neighbors, provides an important roadmap for learning about regeneration. These findings suggest that similar mechanisms may be extraordinarily relevant for controlling the behavior of migratory, plastic cells. Further analysis in both planarians and in vertebrates will provide crucial opportunities for understanding what drives stem cell behavior and may help medical science identify novel therapeutic targets.
The Forsyth team previously found that communication through gap-junctions (microscopic tunnels directly linking neighboring cells) controls the left-right asymmetric positioning of the internal organs during embryonic development. In this study, they turned to the role of gap junctional signals as regulators of adult stem cells in repair of injury.