Scientists Trick Flatworms Into Growing Brains Of Other Species

Scientists Trick Flatworms Into Growing Brains Of Other Species

Researchers at Tufts University can tweak the cells inside flatworms to prompt them into growing heads and brains of related species.

If I were to say "we gave this living thing a new brain", you'd probably imagine a Frankenstein-level mad science operation that will be featured in an upcoming horror movie. But apparently the process is actually quite benign - if we're talking about flatworms. Researchers from Tufts University have discovered a method of disrupting the regeneration process of flatworm cells, tricking the organism into growing the heads of related species. Brains and all.

How does one work this black magic? It starts by cutting off a Girardia dorotocephala flatworm's head. (Don't worry! In this case, it grows back.) Then you interrupt electrical pathways the flatworms cells use to communicate with each other. By doing so, the newly grown heads take on the traits of related species, up to and including brain morphology. The results can be viewed in the larger image below.

Perhaps the most impressive detail? This is all possible without changing any flatworm genomes. In fact, the entire process is temporary, as the worms returned to their regular forms after a few weeks.

So is there any practical information we can obtain from this study? Well, if human regeneration could be co-opted without changing genomes, it's possible to "cure" some birth defects by redirecting our cellular growth. It could prove to be an incredibly beneficial development, as long as we don't have to chop off our own heads to make it happen.

Source: International Journal of Molecular Sciences, via Washington Post

Permalink

So... they found a way to give all these worms googly eyes?

FOR SCIENCE!

Hope playing god like this wont backfire horrible on us somehow... i have seen enough horror movies to know where this is headed

Karadalis:
So... they found a way to give all these worms googly eyes?

FOR SCIENCE!

Hope playing god like this wont backfire horrible on us somehow... i have seen enough horror movies to know where this is headed

What kind of creepy God do you believe in who regularly cuts heads of things to see what happens?

While this is all very interesting, I saw the thumbnail for this article before I read the title.
And my mind interpreted it as... rather adult. I was wondering why the Escapist was doing a news piece on those sorts of toys.

Why does this feel like very clever viral marketing for either a new Stephen king book/show or Spore 2?

But it is fun playing God.

Those worms look surprisingly phallic.

image

D'aaawwwwwww...some of them even have cute little googly-eyes! :D

Because that was a problem that needed solving.

Say, isn't this how Swamp Thing came about? That everything in the swamp - including the flatworms - ate his body and grew the new him?

DoctorM:
Because that was a problem that needed solving.

Yeah, this is totally useless. Why do scientists waste time on trying to figure out how we can get stem cells to differentiate into other cell types than what they would otherwise turn into? This is especially useless since it's in vivo. Seriously scientists, why don't you focus on applied science rather than trying to get a basic understanding of things first?

That sounds great. we can force cell growth to take forms that are different than the genetic coding. meaning we can literally grow organs that are different from the ones in genetic material. this could have so many applications in biological augmentation.

Silentpony:
Why does this feel like very clever viral marketing for either a new Stephen king book/show or Spore 2?

But it is fun playing God.

oh, id love Spore 2. just i wish they would do it properly and not the rushed mess that Spore 1 was. and let us stay a bit longer than a few seconds in each stage before space.

Katherine Kerensky:
While this is all very interesting, I saw the thumbnail for this article before I read the title.
And my mind interpreted it as... rather adult. I was wondering why the Escapist was doing a news piece on those sorts of toys.

Japonica is latin for dickhead... Well, that is how I interpret it from the picure!

OT: An interesting read. The pics of the results are just freaky though. It reminds me of monsters in early Final Fantasy games... the second image is just the palette swapped versions you find in later dungeons.

I like that the worm with cat brain actually grew little cat like ears distinct from the others.

This is pretty cool. I wonder where this research will go, since I doubt this is the end of it.

Cartographer:

Karadalis:
So... they found a way to give all these worms googly eyes?

FOR SCIENCE!

Hope playing god like this wont backfire horrible on us somehow... i have seen enough horror movies to know where this is headed

What kind of creepy God do you believe in who regularly cuts heads of things to see what happens?

I'm sure the Aztecs had a few.

Frankster:
I like that the worm with cat brain actually grew little cat like ears distinct from the others.

I'm not sure if you're joking or if you misunderstood. Planaria felina is a species of flatworm.

Likely named for its kinda cat-like appearance (scientists can be very humorous). If you were joking I apologize.

Dr. Crawver:
This is pretty cool. I wonder where this research will go, since I doubt this is the end of it.

This experiment is actually trying to determine how we can manipulate developmental pathways to grow specific structures. Stem cell research is actually held back by the fact that making the cells become what we want is incredibly complex. This lets us study simple characteristics, but it might actually lead us closer to using stem cells for medical purposes. It's a small step and I think we're still a long way from that to be feasible. I hope I'll be alive when the first attempts in humans are tested, but I'm not holding out too much hope.

I wonder how would be an horror movie with mutant tapeworms...

*shudders*
Never mind!

Clearly the next step is to make the dog/bird hybrids from Bloodborne. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay first off? Right off the bat? Either you people are desperately horny and haven't noticed, or you need to see more penises... Or a mixture of the two, because those worms didn't look like penises to me. That a thing is long and possibly curved does not a penis look necessarily give. Porn and sex people, get going.

That is really neat. Unfortunately sounds like any permanent change would require permanent stimulation - DON'T RUB THE WORMS! - because after a short time they revert to their normal developmental processes. What this situation obviously calls for is a serious investigation by Krieger.

This reminds me of some plant physiology techniques. Interesting.

CaitSeith:
I wonder how would be an horror movie with mutant tapeworms...

*shudders*
Never mind!

Are they tapeworms? They look more like Turbellaria to me.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here