With rapid developments in DNA and protein sequencing technologies, combined with powerful bioinformatics tools, a continued acceleration of gene identification in parasitic helminths is predicted, potentially leading to discovery of new drug and vaccine targets, enhanced diagnostics and insights into the complex biology underlying host-parasite interactions. For the schistosome blood flukes, with the recent completion of genome sequencing and comprehensive transcriptomic datasets, there has accumulated massive amounts of gene sequence data, for which, in the vast majority of cases, little is known about actual functions within the intact organism. In this review we attempt to bring together traditional in vitro cultivation approaches and recent emergent technologies of molecular genomics, transcriptomics and genetic manipulation to illustrate the considerable progress made in our understanding of trematode gene expression and function during development of the intramolluscan larval stages. Using several prominent trematode families (Schistosomatidae, Fasciolidae, Echinostomatidae), we have focused on the current status of in vitro larval isolation/cultivation as a source of valuable raw material supporting gene discovery efforts in model digeneans that include whole genome sequencing, transcript and protein expression profiling during larval development, and progress made in the in vitro manipulation of genes and their expression in larval trematodes using transgenic and RNA interference (RNAi) approaches.
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