Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Moving Toward Regeneration

03.09.2012
The skin, the blood, and the lining of the gut—adult stem cells replenish them daily. But stem cells really show off their healing powers in planarians, humble flatworms fabled for their ability to rebuild any missing body part. Just how adult stem cells build the right tissues at the right times and places has remained largely unanswered.

Now, in a study published in an upcoming issue of Development, researchers at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research describe a novel system that allowed them to track stem cells in the flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea. The team found that the worms’ stem cells, known as neoblasts, march out, multiply, and start rebuilding tissues lost to amputation.

“We were able to demonstrate that fully potent stem cells can mobilize when tissues undergo structural damage,” says Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Stowers Investigator Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, Ph.D., who led the study. “And these processes are probably happening to both you and me as we speak, but are very difficult to visualize in organisms like us.”

Stem cells hold the potential to provide an unlimited source of specialized cells for regenerative therapy of a wide variety of diseases but delivering human stem cell therapies to the right location in the body remains a major challenge. The ability to follow individual neoblasts opens the door to uncovering the molecular cues that help planarian stem cells navigate to the site of injury and ultimately may allow scientists to provide therapeutic stem cells with guideposts to their correct destination.

“Human counterparts exist for most of the genes that we have found to regulate the activities of planarian stem cells,” says Sánchez Alvarado. “But human beings have these confounding levels of complexity. Planarians are much simpler making them ideal model systems to study regeneration.”

Scientists had first hypothesized in the late 1800s that planarian stem cells, which normally gather near the worms’ midlines, can travel toward wounds. The past century produced evidence both for and against the idea. Sánchez Alvarado, armed with modern tools, decided to revisit the question.

For the new study, first author Otto C. Guedelhoefer, IV, Ph.D., a former graduate student in Sánchez Alvarado’s lab, exposed S. mediterranea to radiation, which killed the worms’ neoblasts while leaving other types of cells unharmed. The irradiated worms would wither and die within weeks unless Guedelhoefer transplanted some stem cells from another worm. The graft’s stem cells sensed the presence of a wound—the transplant site—migrated out of the graft, reproduced and rescued their host. Unlike adult stem cells in humans and other mammals, planarian stem cells remain pluripotent in fully mature animals and remain so even as they migrate.

But when Guedelhoefer irradiated only a part of the worm’s body, the surviving stem cells could not sense the injury and did not mobilize to fix the damage, which showed that the stem cells normally stay in place. Only when a fair amount of irradiated tissue died did the stem cells migrate to the injured site and start to rebuild. Next, Guedelhoefer irradiated a worm’s body part and cut it with a blade. The surviving stem cells arrived at the scene within days.

To perform the experiments, Guedelhoefer adapted worm surgery and x-ray methods created sixty to ninety years ago. “Going back to the old literature was essential and saved me tons of time,” says Guedelhoefer, currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was able to reproduce and quantify results obtained in 1949 by F. Dubois, a French scientist, who first developed the techniques for partially irradiating planarians with x-rays.

But Guedelhoefer went further. He pinpointed the locations of stem cells and studied how far they dispersed using RNA whole-mount in situ hybridization (WISH), specifically adapted to planarians in Sánchez Alvarado’s lab. Using WISH, he observed both original stem cells and their progeny by tagging specific pieces of mRNA . The technique allowed him to determine that pluripotent stem cells can travel and produce different types of progeny at the same time.

“In other systems, most migrating stem cell progeny are not pluripotent,” says Guedelhoefer. “For the most part, blood stem cells in humans stay in the bone marrow but their progeny leave and turn into a few other cell types.” But in planarians, it looks like those two things are completely separate. Stem cells can move and maintain the full potential to turn into other types of cells.”

Next, Sánchez Alvarado looks forward to implementing genetic screens and transplantation experiments to disrupt or enhance the cellular behaviors the team observed, to figure out the “rules of engagement” for stem cell migration, he says.

“Why can some animals regenerate whole body parts but you and I are not good at it?” says Sánchez Alvarado. “Can we write an extra rule or erase one? Is it possible, for instance, to get rid of cancer while gaining regenerative properties? These are questions we’d love to have answers to.”

The Stowers Institute for Medical Research, a National Institutes of Health Training Grant (5T32 HD0791), a National Institutes of Health Grant (GM057260), and Howard Hughes Medical Institute provided funding for this work.

About the Stowers Institute for Medical Research

The Stowers Institute for Medical Research is a non-profit, basic biomedical research organization dedicated to improving human health by studying the fundamental processes of life. Jim Stowers, founder of American Century Investments, and his wife, Virginia, opened the Institute in 2000. Since then, the Institute has spent over 900 million dollars in pursuit of its mission.

Currently, the Institute is home to nearly 550 researchers and support personnel; over 20 independent research programs; and more than a dozen technology-development and core facilities.

Kristin Kessler | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.stowers.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Modern genetic sequencing tools give clearer picture of how corals are related
17.08.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Greenland ice flow likely to speed up: New data assert glaciers move over sediment, which gets more slippery as it gets wetter

17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences

Mars 2020 mission to use smart methods to seek signs of past life

17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>