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Exp Gerontol. 2009 Apr;44(4):243-9. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2008.11.007. Epub 2008 Dec 11.

The free-living flatworm Macrostomum lignano: a new model organism for ageing research.

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Department of Biology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


To study the several elements and causes of ageing, diverse model organisms and methodologies are required. The most frequently used models are Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster and rodents. All have their advantages and disadvantages and allow studying particular aspects of the ageing process. During the last few years, several ageing studies focussed on stem cells and their role in tissue homeostasis. Here we present a new model organism which can study this relation where other model systems fail. The flatworm Macrostomum lignano possesses a dynamic population of likely totipotent somatic stem cells known as neoblasts. Several characteristics qualify M. lignano as a suitable model system for ageing studies in general and more specifically for gaining more insight in the causal relation between stem cells, ageing and rejuvenation. In this review, we will briefly describe the species and its life history, and discuss the role of its stem cells in ageing and rejuvenation. We also give an overview of the available experimental tools that allow a multidisciplinary approach for studying ageing in M. lignano.

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