Scientists Have Captured the Elusive Cell That Can Regenerate an Entire Flatworm

The amazing freshwater flatworm known as planaria is a favorite of scientists who study regeneration in research organisms in the hopes of unlocking this property in humans. Over a century ago, they traced planaria’s regenerative powers to a special population of adult stem cells called neoblasts. But until recently, they lacked the tools necessary to home in further on the individual cells truly capable of regeneration.

In a study that combined genomics, single-cell analysis, flow cytometry, and imaging to isolate this elusive cell, scientists in the Sánchez Alvarado Lab and their Stowers collaborators report that a molecule called TSPAN-1 that sits of the surface of cells can be used to purify regenerative neoblasts from similar cell types. These findings have important implications for advancing the study of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.

This study appears in the June 14, 2018, issue of the journal Cell.