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Front Biosci. 2008 May 1;13:6374-94.

Stem cells and regeneration in planarians.

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Genetics Department, University of Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, Barcelona, Spain.


Understanding stem cells is a major goal of current research because of its potential medical applications. Although great advances have been made, such as the culturing and differentiation of embryonic stem cells and reprogramming of cell fates, many basic questions remain unanswered. Describing the mechanisms underlying regeneration will help to understand the biology of stem cells and therefore to control their behavior. While regeneration is being studied in a variety of models, the planarian is particularly noteworthy. In this model system a fragment as small as 1/279 of the animal can regenerate completely within a few weeks. These animals can also grow and degrow--specifically degenerating certain tissues--according to environmental conditions, thus demonstrating a complete control of their stem cell dynamics. However, one of the most interesting aspects of the planarian model system is the presence of a unique type of stem cell that can differentiate into all cell types found in the organism, including the germ line. This represents a simple, extremely powerful, and accessible stem cell system in which to address a variety of important questions. In the last ten years, molecular, cellular, and bioinformatics tools have been established for use in this model, making it ideally placed for in vivo analysis of stem cells in their natural environment without ethical complications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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