Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Biomedical Engineering


Biomedical Engineering


Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering


Mary Staehle, Ph.D.

Committee Member 1

Rachel Riley, Ph.D.

Committee Member 2

Thomas Keck, Ph.D.


Dopamine Transporter, Ethanol, FASD, Planaria, Regenerative Delay


Nervous system--Abnormalities; Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders


Biomedical Engineering and Bioengineering


Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are diagnosed in 2-5% of newborns, but the biology underlying FASD is poorly understood and challenging to study with existing model organisms. A new model for FASD research is Schmidtea mediterranea (Smed) planaria. Smed have a remarkable ability to regenerate their central nervous system (CNS), and possess a well-studied, simple genome. Previous studies have shown that ethanol exposure delays this regeneration, yet this relationship is not fully understood. Here, we show that alcohol exposure affects Smed in a dose-dependent manner, eliciting characteristic withdrawal-like behaviors and impacting cognitive function. Interestingly, prior exposure does not alter subsequent regenerative ability or exacerbate alcohol's influence on regeneration, suggesting a direct impact of alcohol on the molecular processes occurring during regeneration and not an effect on stem cell regulation or differentiability. Additionally, it has been established that dopamine systems play a role in alcohol's effects on neurons. Smed have robust dopaminergic systems that have limited characterization. Thus, we developed a new method to visualize dopamine transporters in Smed and investigate alcohol-induced changes in these systems during head regeneration. This method enables future investigation in planaria that has been inaccessible previously, suggesting even greater potential for this model organism. Taken together, this work increases the viability of the planarian model for FASD and establishes a foundation for future molecular-level characterization in planaria.