RELEVANCE: Planarians are animal models of regeneration, and for the scientists that study them, the developmental potential of individual neoblasts has long been a fundamental question. Further study of planarian biology will now inform scientists how these adult organisms harness the power of pluripotent stem cells to achieve remarkable regenerative feats.
Ever since animals, such as lizards and starfish, were observed regenerating missing body parts, people have wondered where the new tissues come from. In the case of the planarian flatworm, Whitehead Institute researchers have determined that the source of this animal’s extraordinary regenerative powers is a single, pluripotent cell type.
Most advanced animals, including mammals, have a system of specialized stem cells. In humans, we have blood stem cells in our bone marrow that make blood and immune cells, skin stem cells that produce new layers of skin, and intestinal stem cells that continually renew our gut linings, to name just a few. In humans, only embryonic stem cells and germ cells are pluripotent—with the ability to create all cell types in the body.
In the planarian flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea, certain dividing cells, called neoblasts, have long been identified as essential for the regeneration that repairs the worm’s tissues. Until now, however, scientists could not determine whether neoblasts represent a mixture of specialized stem cells that each regenerates specific tissues or are themselves pluripotent and able to regenerate all tissues.
“And that question is at the heart of understanding regeneration in these animals,” says Whitehead Member Peter Reddien, who is also an associate professor of biology at MIT and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Early Career Scientist. “The reason it’s never been possible to address this question is because we needed assays that allow us to ask what the regenerative potential of single cells is.”
Using complementary methods, Dan Wagner, Irving Wang—two graduate students in the Reddien lab and co-first authors—and Reddien have demonstrated that adult planarians not only possess pluripotent stem cells—known as clonogenic neoblasts (cNeoblasts)—but that a single such cell is capable of regenerating an entire animal. Their results are published in the May 13 issue of Science.
In one method, Wagner gave planarians a dose of radiation that killed all of their dividing cells, except for rare, isolated cNeoblasts. By labeling cells for a gene expressed only in neoblasts, Wagner observed that these individual surviving cNeoblasts divided to form large colonies of cells. Wagner analyzed the colonies and found that they contained cells differentiating into neurons and intestinal cells, indicating broad developmental potential for the initiating cNeoblast. Furthermore, Wagner showed that small numbers of cNeoblasts were capable of restoring regenerative potential to entire animals.
Using another method, Wang and Reddien transplanted single cNeoblasts from one strain of planarian into lethally irradiated host planarians from a different strain, which lacked their own neoblasts and the ability to regenerate. Because the donor cells were distinguishable from the host, the researchers demonstrated that the transplanted cNeoblast multiplied, differentiated, and ultimately replaced all the host’s tissues. From a single transplanted cell, the host not only regained the ability to regenerate, but was also converted to the genetic identity of the donor strain.
Because this work showed that cNeoblasts can differentiate into diverse tissue types and even replace all of the tissues in a host planarian, the researchers were able to conclude that cNeoblasts are pluripotent stem cells.
Further study of cNeoblasts could help researchers understand how stem cells can act to promote regeneration.
“This is an animal that, through evolution, has already solved the regeneration problem,” says Wagner. “We’re studying planarians to see how their regeneration process works. And, one day, we’ll examine what are the key differences between what’s possible in this animal and what’s possible in a mouse or a person.”
In the near future, the research group is interested in exploring the new possibilities provided by their techniques.
“Single-cell transplants have opened up a lot more experiments that we can do,” says Wang. “Now that it is possible to identify and isolate single cNeoblasts, we can explore what makes these cells pluripotent.”
This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Keck Foundation.
Written by Nicole Giese
Peter Reddien’s primary affiliation is with Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where his laboratory is located and all his research is conducted. He is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist and an associate professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Clonogenic neoblasts are pluripotent adult stem cells that underlie planarian regeneration”
Science, May 13, 2011.
Daniel E. Wagner (1, 3), Irving E. Wang (1, 3), and Peter W. Reddien (1, 2)1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, MIT Biology, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, 9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA
Nicole Giese | Newswise Science News
Further reports about: > Biomedical > Career > Kidney Regeneration > Medical Wellness > Power Plant Technology > Stem cell innovation > adult stem cell > cell type > embryonic stem cell > immune cell > methanol fuel cells > planarian > pluripotent > pluripotent stem > pluripotent stem cells > single cell > stem cells
Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement
26.06.2017 | University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine
New insight into a central biological dogma on ion transport
26.06.2017 | Aarhus University
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
26.06.2017 | Life Sciences
26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.06.2017 | Information Technology