Scientists have discovered the gene that allows a worm to regenerate its own body parts after they are amputated, it was announced today.
The research into how Planarian worms can re-grow body parts – including a whole head and brain – could one day make it possible to regenerate old or damaged human organs and tissues, the University of Nottingham said.
The research, led by Dr Aziz Aboobaker, a Research Councils UK Fellow in the university’s School of Biology, shows a gene called ‘Smed-prep’ is essential for correctly regenerating a head and brain in Planarian worms.
The worms have the unusual ability to regenerate body parts, including a head and brain, following amputation.
They contain adult stem cells that are constantly dividing and can become all of the missing cell types.
They also have the right set of genes working to make this happen as it should so that when they re-grow body parts they end up in the right place and have the correct size, shape and orientation, the research showed.
The study is published today in the open access journal PLoS Genetics.
Dr Aboobaker said: ‘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.