Researchers from the Aboobaker lab in the Department of Zoology used the worms, which are know for their ability to regrow repeatedly their tissues and organs.

The movement of cells from one part to another part of the body is a key function of cells in our bodies. New stem cells are constantly maintaining tissue and organs functions and they migrate to where they are needed.  If the movement of these cells fail and migrate to the places that are not needed “ fail of cells movement”, cancer can form. 


By studying how the worms respond to injury the team found that stem cells migrated very precisely to the affected area. However in the absence of damaged tissue the cells sat still and did not migrate. 


Using a technique called RNA interference the team were then able to remove the function of regulatory genes already known to be important in cell migration and found that they were also required for migration of planarians stem cells.

These genes included proteins known as transcription factors that are important because they act as ON/OFF switches for hundreds of other genes.


This was a very satisfying result as it confirmed our suspicion that our simple worms will be very useful for understanding stem cell migration, now we have proven the system we can look intensely for new mechanisms that control or interact with cell migration and have areal expectation that we fund will also be true for our migrating cell said Abnave. One advantage is that they are easy to work with and we can make rapid progress.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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