The Many Miracles of Science: Flatworms Can Be Tweaked to Develop Brains of Other Species

"Flatworm in water"

Flatworms have an impressive regenerative power.

A new study has introduced us to the many miracles of science: Flatworms can be tweaked to develop brains of other species. This accomplishment was made possible due to the recent research that scientists from the Tufts University have conducted.

For centuries it was believed that animal and non-animal species can only be modified by altering their genome sequences. And yet, recent studies prove the opposite. There are many physical changes that can be performed on species without modifying their DNA in any way.

Come to think about it, this is usually possible even among humans, whose physical traits can be altered through outside pressure (e.g. African tribes with elongated heads, Chinese women with very small feet as a result of the shoes they wear).

Scientists from the University of Tufts have conducted a series of tests on a species of flatworms named G. Dorotocephala. They have selected this particular species because they have the ability to regenerate in a brief period of time.

Experiments began with the cutting off of the flatworms’ heads and then, researchers blocked the electrical circuits that cells usually had inside the brains of the worms. By interrupting their brain circuits, researchers practically reinvented this species because it acquired new heads and characteristics.

The biggest accomplishment of the study is the fact that the newly acquired brains that were borrowed from closely-related species preserved their initial morphology. Thus, the modified flatworms had two different constitutive elements, which is why they have been many times compared to Frankenstein in the present study.

Activists, who may argue that such experiments are cruel and unnecessary should be told that none of these flatworms have suffered permanent modifications. On the contrary, their heads and brains returned to their original forms after a short period of time.

What scientists wanted and managed to prove was that genes aren’t always everything. Many modifications can be performed without working on a species’ genomic sequences.

The findings of the current study were detailed in the journal of Molecular Sciences.

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