A scientific study describes for the first time the role of a signaling pathway – specifically, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) pathway – in the differentiation of the digestive lineage of planarians. The evolutionarily highly conserved EGFR pathway plays a critical role in regulating cell proliferation and differentiation in many organisms (eg, mammalian neural stem cells), and is over-activated in most human cancers. The article, published in the journal Development , is authored by researchers Francesc Cebrià, Sara Barberán and Susanna Fraguas, from the Department of Genetics, Microbiology and Statistics and the Institute of Biomedicine of the University of Barcelona (IBUB). Studying the fate of adult stem cells in planarians The planaria Schmidtea mediterranea is an invertebrate that is

used as a model in developmental Armenia Email Lists genetics studies and in biomedical research. It has a great regenerative capacity, based on pluripotent adult stem cells – neoblasts – that are maintained throughout the life cycle of the organism, and is an exceptional model to study the behavior of these stem cells in vivo in regeneration processes of a whole animal from a small part. In regenerative medicine, research with planarians could promote the design of future therapies based on the transplantation of stem cells or differentiated cells from stem cells in patients affected by neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.), diabetes or heart disease. As explained by Professor Francesc Cebrià, who has directed this scientific work, “neoblasts, which are the only cells with the capacity to divide, are necessary

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to renew cells that die within normal physiological renewal or tissue homeostasis. When we cut a planarian, the neoblasts are equally necessary to regenerate all the amputated tissues and organs. ‘ “It is not yet known how these parents end up differentiating into the different cell types,” says Cipriano. In the vast majority of cases, the signaling pathways or genetic programs that regulate this final differentiation of the different cell types from their progenitors were unknown. It has long been known that neoblasts are not a homogeneous cell population: some already express specific transcription factors that lead them to specific lineages. “In other words,” the expert details, “they are no longer pluripotent neoblasts, but specialized progenitors: for example, progenitors that express the transcription factors

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