London: Scientists have unravelled the
mechanism through which worms regenerate their amputated body
parts -- a research that could lead to regrowing damaged human
organs in future.
The University of Nottingham research into how Planarian
worms can re-grow body parts -- including a whole head and
brain -- found a gene called `Smed-prep` which is essential
for correctly regenerating body parts among the creatures.
The research also shows that one day it will make it
possible to regenerate old or damaged human organs and
tissues, the Daily Mail reported.
"These amazing worms offer us the opportunity to observe
tissue regeneration in a very simple animal that can
regenerate itself to a remarkable extent and does so as a
matter of course," said lead researcher Dr Aziz Aboobake, a
Research Councils UK Fellow in the university`s School of
"We want to be able to understand how adult stem cells
can work collectively in any animal to form and replace
damaged or missing organs and tissues.
"Any fundamental advances in understanding from other
animals can become relevant to humans surprisingly quickly.
"If we know what is happening when tissues are
regenerated under normal circumstances, we can begin to
formulate how to replace damaged and diseased organs, tissues
and cells in an organised and safe way following an injury
caused by trauma or disease.
"This would be desirable for treating Alzheimer`s
disease, for example.
"With this knowledge we can also assess the consequences
of what happens when stem cells go wrong during the normal
processes of renewal -- for example in the blood cell system
where rogue stem cells can result in Leukaemia."
According to the researchers, Smed-prep is necessary for
the correct differentiation and location of cells that make up
a Planarian worm`s head, as well as for defining where the
head should be located.
They found although the presence of Smed-prep is vital so
the head and brain are in the right place, the worm stem cells
can still be persuaded to form brain cells as a result of the
action of other unrelated genes.
But even so, without Smed-prep these cells do not
organise themselves to form a normal brain, the researchers
Daniel Felix, a graduate student who carried out the
experimental work, added: "The understanding of the molecular
basis for tissue remodelling and regeneration is of vital
importance for regenerative medicine.
"Planarians are famous for their immense power of
regeneration, being able to regenerate a new head after
"With the homeobox gene Smed-prep, we have characterised
the first gene necessary for correct anterior fate and
patterning during regeneration.
"It has been a really exciting project and I feel very
lucky to have had this study as the centre piece of my thesis
The findings of the study were published in the journal