The mechanisms that induce dedifferentiation to drive regeneration in the absence of stem cells
Prof Uri Frank
National University of Ireland, Galway
Human cells do not normally change their fate – e.g. neurons do not become muscle – and this maintains order in complex structures. This stability also prevents cells from contributing to regeneration as this requires flexibility. In other animals, regeneration is achieved by a controlled loss of stability in adult cells that can then become stem cells and contribute to tissue and organ replacement. The underlying mechanisms are unknown and may also exist in a rudimentary form in humans. However, identifying them and studying their features should be easier in regenerative animals.
Our objectives are to characterise the mechanisms that allow differentiated adult cells to revert to stem cells and to regenerate lost organs. We will use a highly regenerative yet simple invertebrate animal that can naturally replace any lost organ.
Understanding how cells become flexible can contribute to new strategies for regenerative medicine.