In many organisms like the salamander, the planaria, the hydra the developmental programs remains open into adulthood as evidenced by their regenerative abilities, i.e. re-growing of the missing part of the body after amputation. In contrast, in most vertebrate species, this regenerative potential becomes progressively lost during development but tissue regeneration remains possible like that of the skin, the bone, the liver, the lens while the mammalian central nervous system shows little functional repair despite the presence of multipotent stem cells in the adult.
This seemingly random distribution of regenerative capacities among the Metazoa is puzzling, and little is known about the genes and genetic programs responsible for this biological trait. The question is how similar or dissimilar to each other are the various regeneration processes at the molecular level? Many laboratories are currently undertaking systematic genomic/proteomic strategies to characterise the genetic components of bone fide regeneration and of tissue repair.
The concept of these two meetings is to integrate the work on regeneration and wound healing in the diverse model organisms. The comparison of regeneration-specific genetic networks at work in vertebrate and invertebrate model systems will lead to a better understanding of the core mechanisms that regulate regeneration. As a consequence, the steps that are altered in regeneration-deficient species could start to be identified, which could be of utmost interest in a medical context.
Indeed, recent data show that invertebrates, including planarians and cnidarians use evolutionarily conserved genes for development and regeneration, supporting the relevance of these simple models for comparison with vertebrate systems. The first conference will focus on the current understanding of biochemical, cell biological, and developmental mechanisms that underlie wound healing, cell proliferation, blastema formation, and patteming during regeneration and tissue repair. The second conference will focus on the comparison of the genomic/proteomic data from the diverse regenerating and non-regenerating systems with the aim of identifying underlying similarities and differences in the molecular networks of regenerating and non- regenerating situations.