Scientists Discover Gene That Helps Decapitated Flatworms Regrow Heads

Posted on July 8, 2014

Results of experiments of zic-1 gene in head regeneration in flatworm planarians

Scientists have discovered the gene that helps decapitated flatworms regrow their heads. The gene is called zic-1. Scientists discovered through lab experiments that flatworms cannot regrow their heads if the gene is deactivated. The above photograph shows a flatworm planarian that successfully regrew a head on the left and a flatworm that failed to regrow a head because the scientists deactivated its zic-1 gene.

The discovery was made by Professor Christian Petersen and Ph.D. student Constanza Vásquez-Doorman of Northwestern University. A first step to uncovering the mystery behind the regeneration process came from Petersen's previous research. This research identified Notum, a secreted protein, as crucial to head regeneration. In the new study, the researchers found that expression of the Notum protein and head regeneration requires the zic-1 gene. The researchers believe it is likely that the zic-1 gene acts as a transcription factor to produce cells that secrete Notum.

A research paper on the zic-1 gene in planarians was published here in the journal, PLoS Genetics.

Photo: Dr. Christian Petersen