Flatworm helps researchers study stem cells and cancer

Sep 17, 2008

Any way you slice it, the planarian's contributions to biological research just keep on growing.

The planarian, a flatworm normally living in freshwater, is well known for its amazing ability to regenerate – a single planarian cut into 200 pieces can generate 200 new individuals. New research now demonstrates that the planarian is not merely a fascinating master of regeneration, but can help scientists understand the basis of human development and disease.

In a new study published in Disease Models & Mechanisms (DMM), dmm.biologists.org, researchers at the University of Utah and the Forsyth Institute at Harvard report that planaria contain a gene highly similar to the human gene PTEN, one of the most frequently mutated genes in human cancer.

They found that PTEN was present in many planaria cell types, including stem cells. Additionally, disruption of PTEN pathways in the cell resulted in abnormal growths, drastic changes in body shape, and, eventually, death.

This research demonstrates that PTEN is not only important to cell proliferation in mammals. The role of PTEN has been strongly conserved in evolution as planaria PTEN is likewise critical to cell proliferation. Additionally, this work demonstrates that planaria are a new animal model to use in researching the biology of human stem cells and cancer cells.

Source: The Company of Biologists

Explore further: Life-prolonging protein could inhibit ageing diseases

Related Stories

Project Jacquard to weave interactivity into textiles

3 hours ago

"Wearables" represents a broad-category of how we will interact with the digital world away from our laptop screens. It embraces arm bands, socks, bracelets, rings and watches. Google is now enhancing that ...

Recommended for you

Life-prolonging protein could inhibit ageing diseases

10 hours ago

Researchers have found a molecule that plays a key link between dietary restriction and longevity in mammals. This discovery may lead to the development of new therapies to inhibit age-related diseases.

How sleep helps us learn and memorize

May 28, 2015

Sleep is important for long lasting memories, particularly during this exam season. Research publishing in PLOS Computational Biology suggests that sleeping triggers the synapses in our brain to both streng ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.