A small African mammal with an unusual ability to regrow damaged tissues could inspire new research in regenerative medicine, a University of Florida study finds.
For years biologists have studied salamanders for their ability to regrow lost limbs. But amphibian biology is very different than human biology, so lessons learned in laboratories from salamanders are difficult to translate into medical therapies for humans. New research in the Sept. 27 issue of the journal Nature describes a mammal that can regrow new body tissues following an injury. The African spiny mouse could become a new model for research in regenerative medicine.
"The African spiny mouse appears to regenerate ear tissue in much the way that a salamander regrows a limb that has been lost to a predator," said Ashley W. Seifert, a postdoctoral researcher in UF's biology department. "Skin, hair follicles, cartilage -- it all comes back."
That's not the case in other mammals, he said. Usually scar tissue forms to fill the gap created by a wound.
The spiny mouse also regrows tissue on its main body when injured but not as completely as it does in its ears. "On their backs, they regrow hair follicles and skin, but the muscle beneath the skin doesn't regenerate," Seifert said.
Seifert was studying scar-free healing in amphibians when a colleague told him that a small rodent he had observed in Africa seemed capable of autotomy, a defense mechanism whereby the animal self-amputates a body part to escape a predator.
"Autotomy in skinks, geckos and some salamanders is well known," Seifert said. "But it is very rare in mammals, and so far we've only seen it in a few rodents that can jettison their tail."
Seifert's colleague said that the African spiny mouse appeared to have tear-away skin that allowed it to slip a predator's grasp. The notion was interesting enough to send Seifert packing to the Mpala Research Centre near Nairobi, Kenya.
In Nairobi, Seifert was able to document the first known case of skin autotomy in a mammal. But it was how the animals' injuries appeared to be healing that really got his attention.
Seifert used a 4mm biopsy punch, about the size of a large BB, to puncture holes in the ears of the mice to see if the animal showed regenerative capabilities.
"The results were astonishing," he said. "The various tissues in the ear grew back through formation of blastema-like structures -- the same sort of biological process that a salamander uses to regenerate a severed limb."
Ken Muneoka, a Tulane University professor of cell and molecular biology who was not involved with the study, agrees that Seifert's findings are important.
"It could represent a new model system for skin wound healing and tissue regeneration in humans," he said.
University of Florida: http://www.ufl.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
They didn't "chop up the mice", they were testing the limits of the mouse's natural regeneration abilities (ears = full, everything else = no muscle). Also, they only "hole punched their ears" so that they could see the process in action.
"Hey, I can regrow parts of my body with no scar tissue or lost function." "Okay, can you show me?" "What do you mean?" "You know, injure yourself so that I can watch your healing factor in action." "WHAT?!?! NO WAY!! I said I can do it, so you have to believe me." "That isn't how science works, so until you show me, everyone will think you are just a fraud."
That is how the science community reacts: they must see something in action, and be able to test it, in order to believe it.
If this is real, and the scientists are able to find a way to cause that kind of regrowth in other mammals via an artifical process, this would be a massive leap forward in treating everyone from burn victims to war amputees.
When amnesia strikes, people can forget everything about their life, including their name. But what causes memory loss? And what happens to people who lose themselves for an hour, a few months – or even for ever?
Tooth unearthed by 20-year-old volunteer hailed as major discovery by paleoanthropologist overseeing dig at Arago cave near Tautavel
Autistic children are just as good at reading emotions from the body as those without – they just don't like the closeness that interpreting emotions from faces requires
Individual cells can be made to act like tiny lasers, offering a more accurate way to tag and monitor tumour cells, for example
If you want to know the secret behind the success of Tyrannosaurus rex and its meat-eating dinosaur cousins, look no further than their teeth.
A recent article argued that sexuality is down to choice, not genetics. But the scientific evidence says otherwise, and points to a strong biological origin
When I hear the word “sabertooth”, my mind immediately jumps to the great sabercats who sliced through throats …
The Portland Press Herald reports that "Captain Eli," a rare orange lobster, will be kept at the Fisherman's Catch Café in Raymond, Maine, before Bill Coppersmith releases it back into the ocean.
A very rare genetic mutation causes some people to develop Alzheimer's in their 30s. It also makes these people the ideal candidates for tests of potential Alzheimer's drugs.
Adding pigment may shield eggs from UV radiation