Our preliminary work studying the telomere biology of planarians received widespread media attention. As a result we have received a lot of questions from people (non-scientists) who were excited by the media reports.
This included an amazingly inaccurate piece in the Daily Mail (despite several phone calls for clarifications), Telegraph Guardian, and interviews on BBC World News and BBC Radio. We were also featured on the BBSRC front page for our work. I am not going to link these here, but they are easy to find if you just search for “Immortal worms” and the appropriate news outlet.
A Youtube video that you can see below or here tried to explain our findings in simple terms, and we hope this helps clarify the experiments in the paper
Our work raises the possibility that planarian adult stem cells (colloquially called neoblasts) have the potential to have an indefinite replicative capacity because they maintain their telomeres (chromosome ends). This means that asexual planarians may be immortal and may avoid the ageing process. It is this potential immortality that seems to have captured peoples attention. Thomas Tan and Aziz Aboobaker will provide a detailed discussion of the implications of this work by, which will appear on our website later in the year.
This work published in the journal PNAS is collaboration between our group, that of Professor Ed Louis's and Ruman Rahman from the Children’s Brain Cancer unit. Thomas Tan was the person who did most of the laboratory work during is PhD, and is currently back in the lab testing some more of our telomere related ideas while he looks for a suitable post-doctoral position