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Silenced gene in worm shows role in regeneration

for regeneration. The Science study focus on one such gene, smedwi-2, and brings a new level of genetic detail to understanding planarian regeneration.

Planarians long have fascinated biologists with their ability to regenerate. A worm sliced in two forms two new worm s; even a fractional part of a planarian will grow into a new worm. Scientists know that planarian stem cells, called neoblasts, are central to regeneration, but their exact role is only now being learned.

When an animal stem cell divides, two daughter cells are formed: one that is another stem cell and a second one that can differentiate into the cells that form bone, tissue, and other parts of an organism. These second types of cells are essential for regeneration or maintaining the form and function of tissues by replacing cells that die, a process called homeostasis.

By eliminating smedwi-2, the researchers uncovered a role of this protein in regulating the normal differentiation and function of daughter cells.

The researchers postulated three theories why the worms could not regenerate or maintain cells after smedwi-2 was silenced:

  • The stem cells were not responding to tissue damage or homeostasis signals.
  • The stem cell division progeny failed to migrate to the appropriate tissues.
  • The daughter cells didn't know how to differentiate.

    The team found that the stem cells were competent to robustly respond to amputation by significantly increasing their proliferation as well as to home to tissues undergoing homeostasis. But the researchers also found that once the daughter cells reach their target tissues, they were unable to properly differentiate.

    "The smedwi-2 molecule is doing something early in the specification of stem cell progeny that modulates their ability to differentiate into the proper cell type," Snchez Alvarado said. How this molecule is modulating stem cells is one of the next steps that he and
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  • Contact: Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado
    sanchez@neuro.utah.edu
    801-913-8430
    University of Utah Health Sciences Center
    24-Nov-2005


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