It may look like a spin-off after Shelley’s Modern Prometheus, but it would seem that, as days go by, science-fiction facts begin to loosen their fantastical aspect, and turn into scientifically proven facts. A research endeavor aimed at studying brain morphology determined that worms have interchangeable heads.
Leaving behind some of those scientifical mystification created by Shelley’s character, about sewing together different body parts in order to create some sort of superhuman (and not the superhuman, that Nietzsche was talking about), a handful of scientists from the Tufts University have come up with some amazing result that can, one day, prove to be most useful in the field of regenerative medicine.
Upon studying some flatworms from the Giardia dorotocephala family, the researchers found out that they actually can make closely-related worms to morph their heads to look like and have the same functionality as of those of their kin. Basically, a flatworm’s brain can be engineered to the take the shape of his cousin’s brain.
Actually, coming around to more science stuff, the researcher’s goal was to underline the facts that an organism’s brain morphology is not necessarily determined only by its genome. Moreover, they also discovered that by manipulating the electrical pathways, inside the worm’s brain, they can force the brain to morph into any number of shapes, leading the scientists into believing that brain morphology does not depend solely on genetics.
By, literally, hot-wiring the worm’s electrical synapses, the team of scientists actually manage to “talk” the worm into growing any number of heads. Moreover, each of the grown heads had the exact characteristics of the worm’s relative such as the Dugesia japonica or the Polycelis feline.
The experiment becomes even more interesting when we find out that there is no genetical splicing involved. They only tinkered with a couple of cells in the worm’s body. Cell manipulation has also revealed another fact: that the genome’s spawning pool, named chromatin, is not at all related to morphology.
Scientists found out that worms have interchangeable heads after performing a couple of bioelectrical experiments on the writhing critter. After a couple of members were decapitated, the scientists worked around their neural network, manipulating the worm’s gap-protein channels. These protein channels were altered in order to manipulate intercellular communication.
The overall results were simply astonishing. After poking and probing their brains, the scientists found out that higher brain functions and morphology are two facts deriving from the harmonious collaboration between genomic sequencing and subsequent bioelectrical networks.