Researchers uncover framework for how stem cells determine where to form replacement structures | 3/16/2018 | Staff
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Researchers at Whitehead Institute have uncovered a framework for regeneration that may explain and predict how stem cells in adult, regenerating tissue determine where to form replacement structures.

In a paper that appeared online March 15 in the journal Science, the researchers describe a model for planarian (flatworm) eye regeneration that is governed by three principles acting in concert, which inform how progenitor cells behave in regeneration. The model invokes positional cues that create a scalable map; self-organization that attracts progenitors to existing structures; and progenitor cells that originate in a diffuse spatial zone, rather than a precise location, allowing flexibility in their path. These principles appear to dictate how progenitor cells decide where to go during regeneration to recreate form and function, and they bring us closer to a systems-level understanding of the process.

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From previous work, the researchers knew that stem cells are likely reading out instructions from neighboring tissues to guide their path, and it became clear that the process faces some serious challenges in regeneration. "We realized that positional information has to move; it needs to change during regeneration in order to specify the new missing parts to be regenerated. This revised information can then guide progenitor cells that are choosing to make new structures to differentiate into the correct anatomy at the correct locations," says the paper's senior author Peter Reddien, a Whitehead Institute researcher, an MIT professor of biology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. "There is a puzzle that emerges, however. Since positional information shifts after injury during regeneration, there is a mismatch between the positional information pattern and the remaining anatomy pattern. Realizing this mismatch exists was a trigger for our study. We wanted to understand how stem cells making particular tissues decide where to go and differentiate. Is it based on...
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