Stem Cells and Regeneration

Projects

Molecular principles of tissue regeneration and its underlying stem cell biology

We use planarian flatworms as the primary model organism to understand general principles of regeneration and stem cell biology. Planarians are gifted with the remarkable talent to re-grow lost body parts, including the head. This talent is based on a large pool of adult stem cells (‘neoblasts’), of which at least some are pluripotent. Upon injury, neoblasts proliferate and migrate to the site of damage where they give rise to new tissues and organs. Understanding how neoblasts are maintained in the adult body and how they are activated upon tissue loss is a major goal of our research.

In particular, we are trying to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the properties of planarian stem cells and how are they kept in a pluripotent state? Using exciting new technologies along with in vivo RNAi, we have identified numerous candidate proteins required for the maintenance of the planarian stem cell pool that are now under investigation.
  2. How is regeneration initiated? Uncovering the mechanisms of regeneration initiation in planarians,  zebrafish and mice will allow us to identify conserved principles of this process. We are especially interested in understanding the molecular networks that integrate wound signals with positional cues.

 

In addition to planarians as an in vivo model for stem cell biology and regeneration, we work in collaboration with mouse and zebrafish laboratories to translate our findings to vertebrates. Moreover, we are currently establishing the African spiny mouse as an exciting mammalian model for regeneration in our lab.

Funding:

  • Max Planck Society
  • European Research Council (ERC)
  • German Research Foundation (DFG)
  • CiM/International Max Planck Research School
 
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