I love playing with data. I am collecting information on the history of planarians as an animal model in general and as an animal model in pharmacology and toxicology in particular. There are multiple advantages on using these organisms in biomedical research and I have listed some of them here, here and here, but there are some other posts as well in my blog. Feel free to explore and tell me what you think!
By the way, I noticed that this is the first post on planarian research that I have written in a while. I promise to write more frequently on this topic (I can hear the cheers, the cries of joy, etc…).
It is widely thought that planarians are rapidly becoming a popular model in the biomedical sciences, but I was curious to find out just how popular. I used the PubMed database (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed) to perform a search of papers published between 1900 and 2012 using the term “planaria” or variations of it, as a keyword. I also ran a parallel search (same time frame) with the planarian-related keywords combined with the terms “pharmacology” (and variations like “pharmacological”) and “toxicology” (and variations as “toxicological”).
I then proceeded to plot the number of papers as a function of the decade. Please note that this is a so-called “quick & dirty” activity, done in a couple of hours with the available data and very little statistical analysis. However, these are intriguing results that in my view definitively warrant more detailed study.
There are several things that are evident right away. The popularity of planarians in biomedical research has increased over time; this trend seems to have picked up the pace in the 1960s. Moreover, interestingly (yes, I do find this topic interesting… (:-)…) there was an “explosion” in terms of number of publications starting in the year 2000. For example, from 1961 to 2000, there was an average of about 14 papers about planarians per year. In contrast, from 2001 to 2012 the average was about 48 papers per year, a 3.4-fold difference!
As you can see, there is a similar trend in the number of papers about planarians and pharmacology and toxicology, as there is also an increasing of total number of papers per year. When I plotted the % of papers about planarians and pharmacology/toxicology as a function of the total number of papers on planarians here’s what I got (again, you may click on the image to see a larger version):
Where it shows that since 1971 until the present, a respectable 30.6 % (on average) of all papers on planarians have a pharmacological or toxicological theme. This further argues for the continuing use of these wonderful organisms in pharmacological research. These are exciting times for us planarian researchers! (I mean, researchers working with planarians).