Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Three-banded panther worm debuts as a new model in the study of regeneration

25.04.2014

Closely resembling plump grains of wild rice set in motion, the three-banded panther worms swimming in disposable containers in Whitehead Institute Member Peter Reddien's lab hardly seem like the next big thing in regeneration.

And yet, these little-studied organisms possess the ability to regenerate any part of their bodies and are amenable to molecular studies in the lab, making them a valuable addition to a field keen on understanding how mechanisms controlling regeneration have evolved over millennia and how they might be activated in humans.


The lab of Whitehead Institute Member Peter Reddien is introducing the scientific community to the three-banded panther worm (Hofstenia miamia), a small organism with the ability to regenerate any missing body part. As a model, Hofstenia could help further our understanding of regeneration, how its mechanisms have evolved over millennia, and what limits regeneration in other animals, including humans. Intriguingly, Hofstenia and the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea -- long the mainstay of Reddien's research -- rely on similar molecular pathways to control regeneration despite having evolved separately over the course of roughly 550 million years.

Credit: Kathleen Mazza and Mansi Srivastava/Whitehead Institute

Four years ago, postdoctoral researcher Mansi Srivastava and Reddien, collected these intriguing animals swimming among submerged mangrove leaves and other aquatic detritus in a chilly Bermudan pond. Known scientifically as Hofstenia miamia, the worm earned its common name from the three cream-colored stripes running across its body as well as its voracious appetite for live prey.

Found in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, and even as far away as Japan and the Red Sea, the worms were reported to be endowed with regenerative capabilities. In the 1960s, one scientist described the fact that three-banded panther worms could regrow a severed head, although no additional reports followed.

"It was a big risk for us—it was not a project where you knew it was going to work from the beginning," says Reddien, who is also an associate professor of biology at MIT and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator. "I had no idea how successful we'd be with culturing the animals or how successful the methods for development would be. There are all kinds of ways we could've failed on this one, but it was fun. It's the kind of science that has an adventurous spirit to it. And the organism is an even better model organism than we could have hoped for."

Reddien and Srivastava present their new model to the scientific community in the May 19th issue of the journal Current Biology.

Once the worms arrived in their new home in Cambridge, the first test was to acclimate them to lab life and determine their needs for survival. Initially, the worms were dying. The salinity of their water was off, even though it matched the pond where they were found. Hofstenia also rejected the liver that is the dietary mainstay for Reddien's other model of regeneration, the planarian (Schmidtea mediterranea). The three-banded panther worms shrank in size and some resorted to cannibalism.

Eventually, the water quality was fixed and a preferred food source was identified: sea monkeys, also known as brine shrimp. Now the worms are thriving and laying numerous eggs, enough to create an ample supply of animals for experiments.

Through a series of dissections, Reddien and Srivastava established that Hofstenia not only regenerate their heads, but, like planarians, are also able to regrow any body part. The scientists then documented the worm's transcriptome—a list of all of the genes that are transcribed in the animal—and established that RNA interference (RNAi) could be used in this animal to inhibit specific genes and unlock the molecular functions that allow regeneration.

With these tools in hand, they determined that in Hofstenia, as in planarians, Wnt signaling controls regeneration along the anterior-posterior (head-tail) axis and Bmp-Admp signaling controls regeneration along the dorsal-ventral (back-belly) axis.

If Hofstenia and planarians were phylogenetically close, such similarities would not be surprising. But after analyzing the Hofstenia transcriptome, the team determined that the three-banded panther worm and planarians are only very distantly related, a view that had been proposed based on analyses with sequences from a small number of genes.

"I find that there is no evidence, even with this large dataset, for Hofstenia to be classified with planarians, which means the last common ancestor that these two species shared existed 550 million years ago. This is the common ancestor that we, humans, also share with these species," says Srivastava, who has a background in evolutionary developmental biology and authored the Current Biology article. "The cool thing is that this raises the question of whether our common ancestor used these pathways—Wnt and Bmp signaling—to regenerate or not."

###

This work is supported by the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund, Human Frontier Science Program, and the Keck Foundation.

Written by Nicole Giese Rura

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 Investigator and an Associate Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Full Citation:

"Whole-body acoel regeneration is controlled by Wnt and Bmp-Admp signaling"

Current Biology, May 19, 2014.

Mansi Srivastava (1), Kathleen L. Mazza-Curll (1), Josien C. van Wolfswinkel (1), and Peter W. Reddien (1).

1. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.

Matt Fearer | Eurek Alert!

Further reports about: Biology Biomedical Medical Technology Wnt ancestor animals genes humans organism species

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation
24.05.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Carcinogenic soot particles from GDI engines
24.05.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>