In a breakthrough research conducted by scientists at the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, School of Arts and Sciences, Tufts University; the head and brain of one species of flatworms was grown in the body of another species of flatworm without disrupting its genome sequence. The researchers achieved this by manipulating the electrical synapses which are found inside the body of the flatworm.
The biologists used Girardia Dorotocephala (flatworm species) for their research. This freshwater species has outstanding regenerative capabilities. When this type of flatworm is cut in half, the tail regrows a new head and brain while the other half of the flatworm’s body regrows a new tail.
Michael Levin is the senior corresponding author and holds the Vannevar Bush Chair in the institution. Levin and his colleagues were able to achieve the development of heads of different species by discontinuing gap junctions. The junctions, made of protein, are used by the cells of the flatworms to communicate with each other by sending out impulses of electrical nature.
The transformation of the flat worms was temporary and after a few weeks the neoblasts of the flatworms restate the original head and brain shapes.
It has been discovered that the regenerative capabilities of the planarian flatworm are also exceptional. The research brings to light the fact that electrical connections between cells are responsible for the species-specific patterning of the head when regeneration in planarian flatworms took place.
This study can become very crucial in the advancement of regenerative medicines. Science can use these studies for developing tissue regeneration technology and for treating birth defects. Biologists can get learn how to alter birth flaws with the help of this research. This may lead to research in growing brand new body parts which are similar to the regeneration capabilities of a lizard.