Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Grow Worms

A single cell identified that can develop into all the different types of cell that form a whole healthy worm

18 September 2018

Grow Worms

If you could borrow one ability from an animal what would it be? Would you fly like a bird, run like a cheetah, or maybe regrow your whole body from a single chunk like a flatworm? Scientists focussed on that third option have discovered a secret of the flatworm’s trick. They identified a single particular cell that contains all the regenerative power the worm needs. This cell, which can be identified by the vigorous way it expresses a particular gene, is able to develop into all the different types of cell that form a whole healthy worm. In fact, transplanting a single one of these restorative cells into worms decimated by radiation was enough to bring them back from the brink of death (pictured during recovery, from 18 days post transplantation, top left, to 65, bottom right). Could we one day repeat this rebuilding feat in humans?

Written by Anthony Lewis

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