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Planarians enter the genomic era

Study in Developmental Cell uses RNAi to probe Schmidtea mediterranea genome

Sarah Rothman(sarahrothman@yahoo.com )

Researchers at the University of Utah have figured out a way to inhibit the function of the planarian genome to create a wide range of phenotypes. Their study, appearing in the May issue of Developmental Cell, is the first of its kind to use large-scale genetics to study the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea, which contains a genome thought to contain insight into adult stem cell pluripotency and tissue regeneration.

The study "changes things because it effectively makes an animal that was not accessible to genetic studies accessible," lead author Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado told The Scientist.

The planarian is capable of regrowth due to the pluripotency of its neoblasts. Even a fraction of the worm is capable of regenerating into an entirely new organism. However, because the organism does not reproduce sexually, it cannot be studied using traditional genetic techniques.

The team circumvented the problem using bacterial-fed RNA...

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