Olson Lab

Department of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD United Kingdom

Stacks Image 2825
Planarians to Parasitism:
A research program in the developmental biology of NTDs


Parasitic flatworms comprise a large group of extraordinarily diverse animals that includes some of the most significant Neglected Tropical Diseases of ourselves and our domesticated animals, such as bloodflukes (Schistosoma) and tapeworms (Taenia, Echinococcus). We have developed the beetle/rodent-hosted tapeworm Hymenolepis microstoma as a tractable laboratory model for studying the development, genomics and evolution of these parasites.

Planarians are free-living cousins of parasitic flatworms that have served as powerful models of regeneration and stem cell biology for well over a century. Unlike most animals, including ourselves, flatworms maintain pluripotent stem cells throughout their lives, enabling both whole-body regeneration and ‘immortal’ growth. Although free-living and parasitic animals have been studied historically in separate fields of science, contemporary knowledge demonstrates that this approach has been misguided and a hindrance to understanding the biology of both types of organisms.

Our research aims to understand parasitic flatworms in the context of their natural animal affinities and draws heavily on our understanding of the gene regulatory networks that underpin development and regeneration in planarians. In this way, our work contributes to global efforts to control and eradicate the NTDs that diminish our health and economy.

PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Gruhl


We are grateful to the Natural History Museum, BBSRC, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, The Royal Society, Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission, National Science Foundation and additional funding bodies for their generous support of our work.
Stacks Image 2878
Stacks Image 2881
Stacks Image 2884
RECENT PUBLICATIONS

Koziol et al. 2016.
Comparative analysis of Wnt expression identifies a highly conserved developmental transition in flatworms. BMC Biology PUBLICATIONS

Peniche et al. 2016.
Protecting free-living dormice: molecular identification of cestode parasites in captive dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) destined for reintroduction. EcoHealth PUBLICATIONS

Muehlenbachs et al. 2015.
Malignant transformation of Hymenolepis nana in a human host. New England Journal of Medicine PUBLICATIONS

NEWS

ISOMORPHOLOGY: An introduction to the art and science of Gemma Anderson

logo
Pete & Francesca will present at the British Society of Parasitology, Imperial College, London

READ Alessandro Minelli’s commentary “The tapeworm’s elusive antero-posterior polarity” regarding our work published in BMC Biology.

BBC, NPR television and radio interviews regarding New England Journal of Medicine publication: “How did man die of cancer from a tapeworm?

NGS_COVER_FRONT

Next Generation Systematics 2016. PD Olson, J Hughes and JA Cotton (ed.). In print May 2016 by Cambridge University Press
NEWS

logo logo
Now Accepting Submissions: "Planarians to Parasitism: Evolution, Development and Stem Cells in Flatworms" Special EvoDevo + Parasites & Vectors Thematic Volume READ