Regeneration in planarians and other worms: New findings, new tools, and new perspectives



Molecular biology, recombinant DNA techniques, and new methods of cell lineage have reignited the interest of planarians and other worms (mainly annelids and nemerteans) as invertebrate model systems of regeneration. Here, the mean results produced in the last five years are reviewed, an update of the genes and molecules involved in planarian regeneration is provided, and a new morphallactic-epimorphic model of pattern formation is suggested. Moreover, and most importantly, we highlight the new strides brought upon by genomic/proteomic analyses, RNA interference (RNAi) to inactivate gene function, and Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) cell labelling. The raising hope to obtain transformed neoblasts and transgenic planarians is also stressed. Altogether, such approaches will eventually lead to solve the long-standing open questions on regeneration which still baffles us. Finally, we warn against overlooking the evident links between regeneration processes and those controlling the daily wear and tear of tissues and cells. Both processes act, at least in planarians, upon a unique stem-cell endowed with an unrivaled developmental potential in the animal kingdom—the neoblast. This cell could be considered the forebear and a model system for stem-cell analysis. J. Exp. Zool. 292:528–539, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.