When smedwi-2 gene is silenced, regeneration stopped in planarians
Researchers at the University of Utah have discovered that when a gene called smedwi-2 is silenced in the adult stem cells of planarians, the quarter-inch long worm is unable to carry out a biological process that has mystified scientists for centuries: regeneration.
The study published in the Nov. 25 issue of Science was led by Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the U of U School of Medicine, and carried out by members of his laboratory, in particular Helen Hay Whitney Foundation post-doctoral fellow Peter W. Reddien who is now an Associate Member at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.
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," Sánchez Alvarado said. How this molecule is modulating stem cells is one of the next steps that he and Reddien are trying to solve. The answer could have far-reaching implications, because genes similar to smedwi-2 are found in plants, animals and human beings.
Alejandro Sanchez Alvarado | EurekAlert!
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