After injury, an organism must mount a series of responses to minimize and — if possible — repair damage. Some organisms regenerate poorly, while others (including humans) regenerate to differing degrees depending on the tissue that is damaged. Rarely, organisms possess the ability to repair or regenerate any missing tissue. Organisms with remarkable regenerative power include planarians, which are flatworms that can regrow missing tissues after a wide range of amputations or injuries.
In our lab, we use planarians to understand how regeneration proceeds successfully in nature. In particular, we are interested in how a planarian regenerates its central nervous system (CNS), making new neurons and connecting them faithfully again and again. To understand how planarians successfully regenerate the CNS, we are currently pursuing projects to answer the following questions:
1) What signals promote planarian regeneration, both generally and specifically for the CNS?
2) How do the pluripotent stem cells within the planarian body make the decision(s) to become a neuron? Does this happen in the same way or in different ways in regeneration and in development/homeostasis?
3) How are new neurons arranged properly in space and how do they make the correct connections with their partners?
4) How are glial cells in the nervous system regenerated? And what role(s), if any, do they play in the regeneration of the CNS?
Roberts-Galbraith RH, Brubacher JL, and Newmark PA. (2016). A functional genomics screen in planarians reveals regulators of whole-brain regeneration. Elife. pii: e17002. https://elifesciences.org/articles/17002
Ong TH, Romanova EV, Roberts-Galbraith RH, Yang N, Zimmerman TA, Collins JJ 3rd, Lee JE, Kelleher NL, Newmark PA, and Sweedler JV. (2016). Mass Spectrometry Imaging and Identification of Peptides Associated with Cephalic Ganglia Regeneration in Schmidtea mediterranea. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 291(15):8109-20. http://www.jbc.org/content/291/15/8109.long
Roberts-Galbraith RH and Newmark PA. (2015) On the organ trail: insights into organ regeneration in the planarian. Current Opinion in Genetics and Development. 32:37-46. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959437X15000106
Roberts-Galbraith RH and Newmark PA. (2013) Follistatin antagonizes activin signaling and acts with notum to direct planarian head regeneration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110(4):1363-8. http://www.pnas.org/content/110/4/1363.long