31 August 2014Lessons from Lizards
Lizards can lose their tails. The idea is that reptile-guzzling predators are distracted by the abandoned appendage while the lizard scarpers to safety. And then the lizard’s tail grows back. This ability to regenerate body parts has long interested scientists, who hope to mimic it in humans. As the most closely related animals to humans (who sometimes regrow lost fingertips) that can regenerate entire body parts we and lizards share the same toolbox of genes for the job. Researchers have now carried out the first genome analysis of tail regeneration in the green anole (pictured), which revealed that during tail regrowth lizards turn on 326 genes, including those involved in embryonic development, response to hormone signals and wound healing. By following the lizard’s genetic recipe for regeneration, then harnessing those genes in humans, it may be possible to regrow new cartilage, muscle or spinal cord in the future.
Written by Nick Kennedy