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Lab ImageLukas Schärer

University of Basel
Zoological Institute
Vesalgasse 1
Basel, BS 4051

+41 61 267 0366

Taxa Studied: Invertebrate Animals
Techniques Employed: 454 Pyrosequencing, Solexa (Illumina) Sequencing, Bioinformatics/Sequence Analysis, In Situ Hybridization, Antibody Staining, Sectioning for Histology, Sectioning for Electron Microscopy, Epifluoresence Microscopy, Time-Lapse Microscopy, Transgenesis, Other, RNA interference(RNAi), Rapid phenotyping of morphology and behavior.
Research Description: The relatively poor general understanding of simultaneous hermaphroditism among animals is likely due to the fact that none of the classic zoological model organisms exhibits this sexual mode (e.g. mouse and fruit fly have separate sexes, and C. elegans is a rather unusual self-fertilizing sex changer). It was this realization that initially guided my search for a model organism, my search image being a 'transparent hermaphroditic Drosophila'. My work over the past years clearly documents that Macrostomum lignano matches this search image impressively, as it combines the small size, ease of controlled breeding and short generation time of Drosophila, with the outstanding transparency of C. elegans, allowing non-invasive observation of many internal processes. What has also become very clear over the last years is that the utility of this novel model organism, which was discovered in 1995 and taxonomically described in 2005 (Ladurner et al. 2005b) is in no way restricted to the questions I initially set out to answer, which focus mainly on sexual selection, sexual conflist and sex allocation. The growing international Macrostomum community, whose development and integration I actively promote, shows this impressively. The community unites very diverse fields of biological research, including aging (Mouton et al. 2009a; Mouton et al. 2009b), genomics (Morris et al. 2006), morphology (Morris et al. 2004; Ladurner et al. 2005a; Willems et al. 2008; Vizoso et al. 2010), neurobiology (Morris et al. 2007), stem cell biology (Ladurner et al. 2000; Nimeth et al. 2007; Pfister et al. 2007; Ladurner et al. 2008; Pfister et al. 2008; De Mulder et al. 2009), regeneration (Egger et al. 2006; Egger 2008; Egger et al. 2009), and evolutionary biology (our own work). An important task now is to continue to develop genetic and genomic knowledge. Recent advances in next-generation sequencing technologies make this information accessible also in 'non-classical' model organisms, and I have co-initiated a Macrostomum community-based whole genome sequencing project (see www.macgenome.org). And ongoing efforts to create transgenic lines that express fluorescent reporter-gene constructs will allow spectacular in vivo observation of the development and maintenance of the different organ systems in this highly transparent flatworm. As a community we are dedicated to sharing new developments and resources with other researchers, in order to help to further establish this highly versatile model organism. A major current aim in biological research is to understand how adult organisms maintain, modulate and recover tissue homeostasis when exposed to environmental perturbations. Adults individuals of the classical invertebrate model organisms are largely post-mitotic, and therefore not ideal to unravel the underlying genetic, genomic, and gene-regulatory processes. Flatworms symbolize the antithesis of the rigid developmental programs of fruit flies and nematodes: they show extreme phenotypically plastic responses to many environmental factors, and will therefore make key contributions to our understanding of many regenerative processes in animals.
Lab Web Page: http://evolution.unibas.ch/scharer/index.htm
Willing to Host Undergraduates: YES
Actively Seeking Undergraduates: YES
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