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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2008 Jan;65(1):16-23.

Planarians, a tale of stem cells.

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Dipartimento di Morfologia Umana e Biologia Applicata, Sezione di Biologia e Genetica, Università di Pisa, Via Volta, 4, 56126, Pisa, Italy.


Planarians possess amazing abilities to regulate tissue homeostasis and regenerate missing body parts. These features reside on the presence of a population of pluripotent/totipotent stem cells, the neoblasts, which are considered as the only planarian cells able to proliferate in the asexual strains. Neoblast distribution has been identified by mapping the cells incorporating bromodeoxyuridine, analyzing mitotic figures and using cell proliferation markers. Recently identified molecular markers specifically label subgroups of neoblasts, revealing thus the heterogeneity of the planarian stem cell population. Therefore, the apparent totipotency of neoblasts probably reflects the composite activities of multiple stem cell types. First steps have been undertaken to understand how neoblasts and differentiated cells communicate with each other to adapt the self-renewal and differentiation rates of neoblasts to the demands of the body. Moreover, the introduction of molecular resource database on planarians now paves the way to renewed strategies to understand planarian regeneration and stem cell-related issues.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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