Phil Newmark

Morgridge Principal Investigator, Burnell R. Roberts Chair in Regenerative Biology, UW-Madison Professor of Zoology


Regenerative Biology


(608) 316-4105


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Morgridge Investigator and Burnell Roberts Chair in Regenerative Biology Phillip Newmark’s imagination has been captured by a planarian. The tiniest piece of this amazing little flatworm can regenerate into a whole animal in about a week. A population of somatic stem cells maintained in the adult make this possible. But how are these cells able to turn into different parts of the animal? What determines the manner in which these cells differentiate and proliferate? How are new cells able to integrate with “old” tissues and organs? The answers to these questions will provide critical information regarding the factors that enable some animals to regenerate. Furthermore, the work conducted in the Newmark Lab poses exciting potential for a better understanding of schistosomiasis, a devastating parasitic disease affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Phillip Newmark is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and a Damon Runyon Scholar Award from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. It looks like the little planarian has captured a lot of imagination.

We use freshwater planarians as models to study regeneration, germ cells, and to help us understand parasitic flatworms. We utilize the tools of molecular cell biology and functional genomics to address several major biological problems for which planarians serve as excellent models, including:

  • Differentiation of the Regenerative Stem Cells: Roles in Regeneration and Tissue Maintenance. Planarians can regenerate a complete animal from a tiny fragment of tissue; this amazing regenerative ability is based upon a population of somatic stem cells maintained in the adult. How are these stem cells specified to adopt specific fates? How is their differentiation choreographed to correctly replace the missing structures? How are newly differentiated cells integrated into functional tissues and organs, during regenerative and homeostatic processes?  How are stem cell proliferation and differentiation regulated systemically? 
  • Regulation of Germ Cell Development and Differentiation. We are also interested in understanding the mechanisms by which germ cells are specified, and how physiological/environmental signals regulate their proper differentiation.  In contrast to the commonly studied genetic model invertebrates, in which localized determinants specify germ cells in the early embryo, planarians use inductive signals to form their germ cells from the somatic stem cells much later in development.  Thus, the functional genomic resources available for studying planarians can be used to examine inductive germ cell specification and the factors required to convert a somatic stem cell into a germ cell. 
  • Planarians as Models for Understanding Parasitic Flatworms. Schistosomes are parasitic flatworms and are the causative agents of schistosomiasis, a major neglected tropical disease affecting hundreds of millions of people. Although parasitic flatworms display several striking differences in their life cycles relative to their free-living relatives, they also share many common features. We are capitalizing on the experimental accessibility of planarians to help us understand several fundamental aspects of schistosome biology.


BA, Biology, Boston University

PhD, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado at Boulder


Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

CAREER Award, National Science Foundation

Damon Runyon Scholar, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

University Scholar, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

American Association for Advancement of Science, Fellow

Selected Publications