These used a technique that combines genomics, single-cell analysis, flow cytometry and imaging, scientists have isolated this amazing regenerative cell – a subtype of the long-studied adult pluripotent stem cell – before it performs its remarkable act. This will propel biological studies on highly regenerative organisms like planarians and also inform regenerative medicine efforts for other organisms like humans that have less regenerative capacity.
Every multicellular organism is built from a single cell, which divides into two identical cells, then four, and so on. Each of these cells contains the exact same twisted strands of DNA, and is considered pluripotent – meaning it can give rise to all possible cell types in the body. But somewhere along the way, those starter cells – known as embryonic stem cells – resign themselves to a different fate and become skin cells, heart cells, muscle cells, or another cell type. In humans, no known pluripotent stem cells remain after birth. In planarians, they stick around into adulthood, where they become known as adult pluripotent stem cells or neoblasts. Scientists believe these neoblasts hold the secret to regeneration.