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Acoel and platyhelminth worms are particularly attractive invertebrate models for stem-cell research because their bodies are continually renewed from large pools of somatic stem cells. Several recent studies, including one in BMC Developmental Biology, are beginning to reveal the cellular dynamics and molecular basis of stem-cell function in these animals.

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Adult somatic stem cells can play critical roles in postembryonic developmental processes such as tissue renewal, growth, repair, and regeneration [1]. Understanding how such cells are maintained and produce differentiated progeny is thus of general interest in developmental biology, in addition to being of clear biomedical relevance. Invertebrate models have great potential for elucidating the cellular and molecular basis of stem-cell function. However, in the main invertebrate models used for dissecting the details of animal development, including Drosophila and Caenorhabditis, adult somatic tissues are primarily post-mitotic and are largely or entirely devoid of adult stem cells, which limits the use of these established models for stem-cell research. Representatives of two groups of soft-bodied worms, the Acoela and the Platyhelminthes, possess large pools of adult somatic stem cells, making them useful invertebrate models for stem-cell biology. These organisms are now beginning to provide new insights into the cellular and molecular basis of adult stem-cell function.



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