Dr., Group leader, Tunicate regeneration
Botrylloides leachii is a worldwide viviparous hermaphroditic marine sessile invertebrate that has organs as well as a tissue complexity related to that of vertebrates. B. leachii belongs to the Tunicata phylum, the closest phylogenetic relative to the vertebrates. In addition, Botrylloides are the only known chordates that can undergo whole-body regeneration (WBR) throughout their adult life. As such, the study of this organism offers a unique evolutionary perspective into the biological processes observed in chordates with a particular emphasis on regeneration. Its study could thus unravel novel lines of research towards the reactivation of similar regenerative processes in vertebrates.
Our lab dissects WBR by using an interdisciplinary combination of time-lapse imaging, histological sectioning and image analysis. We have set out to identify the origin and nature of the stem-like cells responsible for this regenerative capacity. In addition, we are progressively analysing the whole 10 days of WBR to construct a virtual atlas of this unique process combining information on cell types, cell fates and cell lineages. This dataset will be particularly valuable for the functional characterization of WBR, as well as for the comparison with the visually similar process of asexual reproduction.