Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Harvard University, Department of OEB
Mechanisms of regeneration and their evolution
Abstract: Wound repair and regeneration are fundamental features of animal biology, and the capacity to replace all missing tissues (“whole-body regeneration”) is widely distributed across animal phyla. The genetic pathways that mediate whole-body regeneration are poorly understood, and little is known about how these pathways compare across animal lineages. Functional studies of species in phylogenetically informative positions are needed both to elucidate further the mechanisms of regeneration and to evaluate how these mechanisms have evolved. The goals of my research program are: 1) to identify cellular and genetic mechanisms for whole-body regeneration, and 2) to create aframework for rigorous cross-species comparisons to understand the evolution of regeneration. We focus our work on a new model system, the acoel worm Hofstenia miamia, which regenerates robustly and represents the likely sister-lineage to all other animals with bilateral symmetry, to address these questions. In this talk, I will discuss how we utilize a diversity of approaches including functional genomics, single-cell RNA-sequencing, and transgenesis to uncover the mechanisms of regeneration in Hofstenia. In particular, I will highlight how our studies of wound-induced gene regulatory networks and of stem cells are enabling comparisons of regenerative mechanisms across species.