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Moving toward regeneration
Date:8/30/2012

KANSAS CITY, MOThe skin, the blood, and the lining of the gutadult 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 Snchez 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 Snchez 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
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Contact: Kristin Kessler
krk@stowers.org
816-926-4136
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Source:Eurekalert  

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