Free-living planarian flatworms have a long history of experimental usage owing to their remarkable regenerative abilities. Small fragments excised from these animals reform the original body plan following regeneration of missing body structures. For example if a 'trunk' fragment is cut from an intact worm, a new 'head' will regenerate anteriorly and a 'tail' will regenerate posteriorly restoring the original 'head-to-tail' polarity of body structures prior to amputation. Regeneration is driven by planarian stem cells, known as 'neoblasts' which differentiate into ~30 different cell types during normal body homeostasis and enforced tissue regeneration. This regenerative process is robust and easy to demonstrate. Owing to the dedication of several pioneering labs, many tools and functional genetic methods have now been optimized for this model system. Consequently, considerable recent progress has been made in understanding and manipulating the molecular events underpinning planarian developmental plasticity. The planarian model system will be of interest to a broad range of scientists. For neuroscientists, the model affords the opportunity to study the regeneration of an entire nervous system, rather than simply the regrowth/repair of single nerve cell process that typically are the focus of study in many established models. Planarians express a plethora of neurotransmitters, represent an important system for studying evolution of the central nervous system and have behavioral screening potential. Regenerative outcomes are amenable to manipulation by pharmacological and genetic apparoaches. For example, drugs can be screened for effects on regeneration simply by placing body fragments in drug-containing solutions at different time points after amputation. The role of individual genes can be studied using knockdown methods (in vivo RNAi), which can be achieved either through cycles of microinjection or by feeding bacterially-expressed dsRNA constructs. Both approaches can produce visually striking phenotypes at high penetrance--for example, regeneration of bipolar animals. To facilitate adoption of this model and implementation of such methods, we showcase in this video article protocols for pharmacological and genetic assays (in vivo RNAi by feeding) using the planarian Dugesia japonica.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE|
|State||Published - 2011|