Genetic 'Recipe' Found for Lizard Tail Regrowth

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Are humans one step closer to being able to regrow spinal cord? Thanks to the green anole lizard, we may well be.

A team of researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) studied the genes of the lizard -- Anolis carolinensis, in classification-speak -- when it was in tail regeneration mode, and the scientists announced they have found a kind of genetic "recipe" for how the lizard works its magic. Their work has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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"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 lead author Kenro Kusumi, professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences and associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in a press release.

Lizards are the animal most closely related to humans that can grow back whole appendages, Kusumi explained, noting that his team found more than 320 genes the creatures turn on in specific tail regions during regeneration.

"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," Kusumi said.

The ASU team hopes its work will help break future ground in the treatment of spinal cord injuries, birth defects, and diseases such as arthritis.