Studying highly proliferative pluripotent animal adult stem cells and the potential for fundamental insights relevant to cancer biology

Aziz Aboobaker’s group uses planarians as a model to study fundamental questions about, regeneration, stem cell behaviour and cancer. Planarian adult stem cells are highly proliferative and must correctly differentiate to form all cell types organised in tissues and organs. One question that is often asked is whether planarians develop cancer, as their large stem cell population might increase the chance that individual system cells might become transformed and cycle out of control. The Aboobaker group uses planarians to as a simple model system to study aberrant stem cell behaviours that underpin human diseases, particularly cancers caused by rogue adult stem cells. They use planarians to find new genes that control stem cell migration, proliferation and differentiation with a particular focus on genes conserved in mammals.