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IBUB research group describes a key gene in early brain regeneration in planarians

By 21 de May de 2014November 18th, 2020No Comments
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Planarians, a traditional model to study cell regeneration. Photo: UB.

IBUB research group describes a key gene in early brain regeneration in planarians

According to a paper published in the prestigious journal Development (doi:10.1242/dev.101345), the gene egr-4 may play a key role in early brain regeneration in planarians —a group of invertebrates used to study of the genetics of development. The article is signed by experts Francesc Cebrià, Susanna Fraguas, Sara Barberán, Marta Iglesias and Gustavo Rodríguez Esteban, from the Department of Genetics and the Institute of Biomedicine of UB (IBUB), based in the PCB.

Tissue regeneration is a highly complex process studied by international research groups in different animal models (planarian, zebra fish, newt, axoloti, Hydra, etc.). The scientific community has long postulated that the nervous system may play a determinant role in the process of regeneration in animals. The new study strengthen the hypothesis suggested about the key role that the nervous system plays in metazoan regeneration. Furthermore, if defines a hypothetic model in which early brain regeneration is crucial to guarantee anterior regeneration in planarians. In other words, if brain is not well-regenerated, the global regeneration programme is stopped.

The planarian Schmidtea mediterranea are flatworms with bilateral symmetry used as models in the research on cell regeneration and stem cells. The paper describes the first study that relates the gene egr-4 —member of a gene family that codifies transcription factors and regulate the activity of other genes— with the process of neurogenesis in planarians.

Professor Francesc Cebrià, leader of the scientific study, affirms that “in other animals, genes egr are activated in immediate response processes such as inflammation, wound healing and stress”. “Moreover —he points out—, some of these genes also play a major role in the development of the nervous system”. The genes egr control different processes, from cell proliferation to cell survival or cell differentiation. In the case of planarians, the gene egr-4 seems to perform an early control of cell proliferation as a response to amputation, and then be involved in the early differentiation of brain during regeneration. Cebrià highlights that “as there are genes which are similar to egr-4 in other lineages —for instance the human species—, this function may be particularly interesting to understand the process of regeneration in metazoans”.

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