The leech: A novel invertebrate model for studying muscle regeneration and diseases

Annalisa Grimaldi, Serena Banfi, Cristiano Bianchi, Gabriella Greco, Gianluca Tettamanti, Douglas M. Noonan, Roberto Valvassori, Magda De Eguileor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We focused our studies on the leech, Hirudo medicinalis. This invertebrate has a relative anatomical simplicity and is a reliable model for studying a variety of basic events, such as tissue repair, which has a striking similarity with vertebrate responses. Hirudo is also a good invertebrate model to test the actions of drugs and gene products, since the responses evoked by the different stimuli are clear and easily detectable due to their small size and anatomical simplicity. Here we review the use of this invertebrate model to investigate muscle regeneration and the role of hematopoietic stem cells in this process. Our recent data, summarized in this review, demonstrate that the injection of an appropriate combination of the matrigel biopolymer supplemented with Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) in the leech Hirudo medicinalis is a remarkably effective tool for isolating a specific population of hematopoietic/endothelial precursor cells, which in turn can differentiate in muscle cells. Thus leeches can be considered as a new emerging model for studying endothelial and hematopoietic precursors cells involved in muscle post-natal growth and regeneration processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)968-977
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Pharmaceutical Design
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • Leeches
  • Muscle regeneration
  • Myoendothelial cells
  • VEGF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology


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