Project Title: Dissecting the cell dynamics and genetics of head regeneration in Owenia fusiformis
Summary: Regeneration is the capacity for an organism to regrow lost body parts following traumatic injuries. The level of regeneration possible varies between species, with some taxa capable of restoring their entire bodies from just tissue fragments in the case of the flatworms, to salamanders restoring lost limbs and organs. While there have been advancements in understanding how regeneration functions in a few model organisms, there is a dearth of information when it comes to the specific mechanisms and underlying genetics of how these feats are possible.
In my PhD project, I will study the annelid Owenia fusiformis to uncover how it is capable of anterior regeneration, that is, completely restoring a severed head. To identify the mechanisms at play, I will first perform a detail morphological characterisation of the regeneration of the head and conduct experiments to determine changes in cell proliferation throughout this process. Then, I will use RNA-seq to detect changes in gene expression as the new head forms. Ultimately, this project will move the field of regenerative biology forward by unveiling specific details on the complexities and mechanics of how anterior regeneration proceeds in an annelid worm, and toward making Owenia a more tractable system to study both regeneration and embryogenesis.