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Published online 16 April 2004 Regeneration and the need for simpler model

Summary: Published online 16 April 2004
Regeneration and the need for simpler model
Alejandro Sa´nchez Alvarado
University of Utah School of Medicine, Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, 401 MREB, 20 North 1900 East,
Salt Lake City, UT 84132-3401, USA (sanchez@neuro.utah.edu)
The problem of regeneration is fundamentally a problem of tissue homeostasis involving the replacement
of cells lost to normal `wear and tear' (cell turnover), and/or injury. This attribute is of particular signifi-
cance to organisms possessing relatively long lifespans, as maintenance of all body parts and their func-
tional integration is essential for their survival. Because tissue replacement is broadly distributed among
multicellular life-forms, and the molecules and mechanisms controlling cellular differentiation are con-
sidered ancient evolutionary inventions, it should be possible to gain key molecular insights about regener-
ative processes through the study of simpler animals. We have chosen to study and develop the freshwater
planarian Schmidtea mediterranea as a model system because it is one of the simplest metazoans possessing
tissue homeostasis and regeneration, and because it has become relatively easy to molecularly manipulate
this organism. The developmental plasticity and longevity of S. mediterranea is in marked contrast to its
better-characterized invertebrate cohorts: the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster and the roundworm Caeno-
rhabditis elegans, both of which have short lifespans and are poor at regenerating tissues. Therefore, plan-
arians present us with new, experimentally accessible contexts in which to study the molecular actions
guiding cell fate restriction, differentiation and patterning, each of which is crucial not only for regener-


Source: Alvarado, Alejandro Sánchez - Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Utah


Collections: Biology and Medicine