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: Treatment for overactive bladder and irritable bowel syndrome advanced through pioneering research

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ice cream goes Southern, okra extracts may increase shelf-life

13 minutes ago

While okra has been widely used as a vegetable for soups and stews, a new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), shows how okra extracts can be used as a stabilizer in ice ...

NKorea launch pad expansion 'nearing completion'

31 minutes ago

A U.S. research institute says construction to upgrade North Korea's main rocket launch pad should be completed by fall, allowing Pyongyang (pyuhng-yahng) to conduct a launch by year's end if it decides to do so.

Google to help boost Greece's tourism industry

3 minutes ago

Internet giant Google will offer management courses to 3,000 tourism businesses on the island of Crete as part of an initiative to promote the sector in Greece, industry union Sete said on Thursday.

Recommended for you

The impact of bacteria in our guts

8 hours ago

The word metabolism gets tossed around a lot, but it means much more than whether you can go back to the buffet for seconds without worrying about your waistline. In fact, metabolism is the set of biochemical ...

Stem cell therapies hold promise, but obstacles remain

8 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—In an article appearing online today in the journal Science, a group of researchers, including University of Rochester neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., review the potential and ch ...

New hope in fight against muscular dystrophy

9 hours ago

Research at Stockholm's KTH Royal Institute of Technology offers hope to those who suffer from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an incurable, debilitating disease that cuts young lives short.

Biologists reprogram skin cells to mimic rare disease

Aug 21, 2014

Johns Hopkins stem cell biologists have found a way to reprogram a patient's skin cells into cells that mimic and display many biological features of a rare genetic disorder called familial dysautonomia. ...

User comments : 0