Determining How Shape 
Is Restored During Regeneration

Shape is essential…from proteins to organisms.  Shape changes and tissue remodeling drive development, disease and even aging.  But despite the importance of shape, we still know very little about how shape is established, maintained, and (following injury) restored. Although recent advances have enabled us to determine developmental pathways and cell fate mechanisms, this still does not explain how changes in individual cells lead to an animal’s gross anatomy.  So the main questions remain.  Why do babies all have that stereotypical “human” shape (and never look like frogs or fish or birds)?  How does that human embryo know what “human” should look like, anyway?  What prevents us from growing six eyes, or nine, rather than just two?


Using the awesome regenerative power of the planarian flatworm (which is able to regenerate any and all tissues, even brain!), my research investigates the questions of animal shape. Planaria are remarkable in that they can regenerate an entire worm from just a tiny fragment of the original. This allows us to study how all the many different activities (cell migration, cell division, gene regulation, even cell death) are coordinated across thousands of cells, so that regenerating planarians always end up looking like a stereotypical “planaria.” Disrupt this coordination and new worms end up wildly misshapen—with tiny shrunken heads or even multiple heads! If we can figure out how shape is determined, this will provide strategies to further regenerative medicine’s goal of replacing lost organs or limbs. 

Funding Sources





Wendy S. Beane

Beane Lab News
Dr. Beane's Courses:

BIOS 1610 – Molecular & Cellular Biology


BIOS 5750 – Stem Cells and Regeneration (Capstone) Spring

BIOS 5260 – Molecular Bio Lab: Regeneration

(Capstone) (Summer I 2019)

BIOS 6050 – Biological Sciences Colloquium

(Fall 2018)

Research Opportunities:

               All of our positions are full.
               Please check back in the Fall.