Researchers have discovered the process of how lizards regenerate their tails.
A team of researchers from Arizona State University have found the genetic 'recipe' for lizard tail regeneration, which may come down to using genetic ingredients in just the right mixture and amounts.
An interdisciplinary team of scientists used next-generation molecular and computer analysis tools to examine the genes turned on in tail regeneration. The team studied the regenerating tail of the green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis), which when caught by a predator, can lose its tail and then grow it back.
Lead author Kenro Kusumi said that lizards basically share the same toolbox of genes as humans, and were the most closely-related animals to humans that can regenerate entire appendages. They discovered that the lizards turn on at least 326 genes in specific regions of the regenerating tail, including genes involved in embryonic development, response to hormonal signals and wound healing.
Kusumi said that 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.
Jeanne Wilson-Rawls, co-author added that they had identified one type of cell that is important for tissue regeneration. Just like in mice and humans, lizards have satellite cells that can grow and develop into skeletal muscle and other tissues.
The researchers hope their findings will help lead to discoveries of new therapeutic approaches to spinal cord injuries, repairing birth defects, and treating diseases such as arthritis.
The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.