Stem cells and regeneration in Planaria

A wider understanding of stem cell function and regeneration is hampered by the lack of a tractable and simple model system. Our laboratory uses Planaria and Hydra, to examine fundamental questions in stem cell and regenerative biology. Their ability to regrow the whole body or lost tissues and organs, makes these animals an excellent model system to study regeneration and stem cell function.
However lack of

  1. Well characteried stem cells, 
  2. in vitro culture system and 
  3. transgenics have hindered use of these model systems for studying the regeneration phenomenon.

Planaria is a bilaterally symmetrical fresh water living platyhelminth. They have specialized pluripotent cells called neoblasts that are the only dividing cells and are essential for regeneration in planarian. The primary focus of my lab is to study post-transcriptional regulation in these cells. Our studies involve the identification, biogenesis and characterization of small RNAs, such as microRNAs, piRNAs and their role in neoblast function. We are also looking at the role of different classes RNA binding protein in stem cell function and regeneration in planaria.
Hydra is a diploblastic fresh water living Cnidarian. They have unique capacity to regenerate from the dissociated cells. In my lab, we are interested to study the role of small RNAs such as miRNAs, piRNAs and endosiRNAs in cell migration, body axis formation and tissue organization, which are the essential processes that drive Hydra regeneration from the dissociated cells.
Further in collaboration with other members of TAS team, we also propose to develop tools such as transgenics, in vitro culture of stem cells that enable these models to be used effectively to study stem cell function and regeneration in a greater detail.

 

(Lab Photo. circa mid 2016)