Jesse Lowe

Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Chemical Engineering


Chemical Engineering


Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering

First Advisor

Staehle, Mary


Fetal alcohol syndrome; Developmental biology; Planaria as laboratory animals


Chemical Engineering


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a prevalent developmental disease that is caused by excess in utero exposure to ethanol. The importance of timing and dosage of ethanol has been elucidated by previous investigations conducted with humans, rodents, and other model organisms, but challenges associated with determining functional deficiencies have necessitated the introduction of a novel animal model for investigating the dynamics of FASD. In this thesis, we propose that the freshwater flatworm planarian species, Schmidtea mediterranea, has the capability to fulfill this need. Planaria have the ability to completely regenerate fragments into intact, functional animals, and in these studies, we exploited this property to characterize nervous system development in the presence of ethanol. Functional testing of head-regenerating planaria included planarian locomotor velocity testing to assess locomotor capabilities and light avoidance testing to assess development of innate negative phototaxic behavior. The results indicate that ethanol exposure during development leads to dose-dependent effects, including delayed onset of nervous system functionality in low concentrations and overall nervous system attenuation in high concentrations. This suggests that ethanol exposure in head-regenerating planaria can be used as a novel model for the functional dynamics of FASD, enabling future studies that compare molecular and functional deficiencies in FASD.