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New understanding of lizard tails could allow humans to regrow body parts

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August 21, 2014

A green anole, that has regrown the end of its tail

A green anole, that has regrown the end of its tail

If you ever had a pet lizard as a child, it was quite likely a green anole. As is the case with other lizards, they have the ability to break off their own tail when attacked by a predator, and then regrow it. Scientists from Arizona State University recently announced that they have cracked the code regarding that tail regrowth process, and are now hoping that it could be applied to the field of regenerative medicine.

According to Prof. Kenro Kusumi, lead author of a paper on the study, lizards are the most closely-related animals to humans that can regenerate entire appendages. They also share the same "genetic toolbox" as us, so it's theoretically possible that we could do what they do, if only we knew which genes to use and in what amounts.

Through molecular and computer analysis of anoles, it was discovered that they activate at least 326 genes in various locations throughout the tail, during the regeneration process. Among these are genes associated with wound healing, embryonic development and hormonal regulation.

Furthermore, the researchers identified one type of satellite cell that plays a key role in the process – humans also possess these cells, which are precursors to skeletal muscle cells.

"Using next-generation technologies to sequence all the genes expressed during regeneration, we have unlocked the mystery of what genes are needed to regrow the lizard tail," said Kusumi. "By following the genetic recipe for regeneration that is found in lizards, and then harnessing those same genes in human cells, it may be possible to regrow new cartilage, muscle or even spinal cord in the future."

The research paper was published this week in the journal PLOS One.

Source: Arizona State University

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
4 Comments

Interesting.

Slowburn
21st August, 2014 @ 02:16 pm PDT

As this is perfected, it will revolutionise a lot of medicine!

People with amputations and other problems, for all sorts of reasons will be saved a lot of anguish.

Hey! Think of this - medically trim the end of your penis, kick in the regrowth serum, make yourself into the size you always wished for! (I can almost see the web adverts being written now).

The Skud
21st August, 2014 @ 06:25 pm PDT

They only needs the “decay rate algorithm”.

F.Gogoni
22nd August, 2014 @ 10:00 am PDT

Dr. Connors? Your science is ready... :)

Brian McGee
3rd September, 2014 @ 06:14 pm PDT
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