Planarians as a model system for in vitro teratogenesis studies

Teratog Carcinog Mutagen. 1982;2(3-4):277-91. doi: 10.1002/1520-6866(1990)2:3/4<277::aid-tcm1770020309>;2-8.


Free-living flatworms such as planarians are inexpensive to culture, maintain, and use for toxicologic testing in the laboratory. A considerable number of basic studies by ourselves and others indicate that, in simplified miniature, they possess many features of biochemical and physiologic organization similar to higher animals such as mammals. These include a well-developed brain with a varied behavioral repertoire including complex maneuvers of prey capture and learning, with a number of the same neurotransmitters used in mammalian brain. They are sensitive to a variety of the same toxicants. Undifferentiated totipotent stem cells, i.e., "neoblasts," which are capable of mitosis and differentiation into any of the various specialized cell types, permit regeneration of complete planarians from fragments. They also provide new cells to replace those lost in the normal cellular turnover of nonregenerating planarians. Both regeneration of surgical fragments and aberrant remodeling of whole planarians model important features of embyrogenesis and are potentially useful for assaying teratogens. Results are described from studies in which various representative teratogenic toxicants were tested in these two different planarian paradigms. The potential of planarian cephalic regeneration for behavioral teratogenesis investigations is also indicated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 9,10-Dimethyl-1,2-benzanthracene / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Benz(a)Anthracenes / toxicity
  • Benzo(a)pyrene
  • Benzopyrenes / toxicity
  • Cadmium / toxicity
  • Caffeine / toxicity
  • Chlordan / toxicity
  • Colchicine / toxicity
  • Dactinomycin / toxicity
  • Demecolcine / toxicity
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Ethanol / toxicity
  • Lead / toxicity
  • Mercury / toxicity
  • Models, Biological
  • Planarians / drug effects*
  • Puromycin / toxicity
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Teratogens / toxicity*
  • Thalidomide / toxicity
  • Turbellaria / drug effects*


  • Benz(a)Anthracenes
  • Benzopyrenes
  • Teratogens
  • Cadmium
  • Chlordan
  • Dactinomycin
  • Lead
  • Benzo(a)pyrene
  • Caffeine
  • Ethanol
  • Puromycin
  • Thalidomide
  • 9,10-Dimethyl-1,2-benzanthracene
  • Mercury
  • Colchicine
  • Demecolcine