Some species of lizard are a priority study for scientists, who try to discover the mechanisms that allow their tails to grow back when they undergo an amputation. A key to understanding this authentic biological prodigy is that, unlike what happens with mammals, its appendages include fragments of spinal cord l.
The ultimate goal is to emulate your biological recipe to regenerate damaged or lost tissues also in the organisms of human beings.
Professor Matthew Vickaryous, a researcher at the University of Guelph in Ontario (Canada), has focused on the study of geckos – they recover their limb in 30 days, faster than any other reptile – and have discovered that the spinal cord of its tail contains a good number of stem cells and proteins that allow that regeneration.
“Now, we finally know what kind of cells makes it possible,” explained Vickaryous, lead author of the work, which has been published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology. “Human spinal cord injuries are very difficult to treat, so I hope that the geeks will teach our marrow how to repair itself,” adds this expert.
When they are in their natural environment, geckos tend to lose their tail due to a bad encounter with a predator. The detached appendix, as with the lizards, remains moving for a while to distract the aggressor and escape. In the laboratory, Vickaryous and his colleagues have divided several specimens to analyze what happens at the molecular level in the regrowth phase.
They have thus been able to detect the unusual behavior of a type of stem cell called radial glia, normally inactive. When amputation occurs, these cells generate different proteins and begin to proliferate in response to the crisis. But once the tail recovers the initial state, the radial glias return to the “off mode”.
An amazing animal
On the contrary, the human organism responds to a spinal cord accident by manufacturing scar tissue instead of renewing it, as lizards do with its tail. The problem is solved with urgency, but in the long term the consequences of the injury persist: we lack the key cells that allow regeneration.
As Vickaryous himself has announced, this work is only the first in a series of studies to delve into the incredible regenerative faculties of the nervous system of geckos. The next step is to discover how it is able to create new neurons in the brain.
“These reptiles can recover many tissues of their organism, which makes them ideal models to investigate the biological springs of wound healing and tissue regeneration,” says the Canadian professor.
Not forgetting that experts in new materials have also noticed the incredible climbing abilities of their legs, composed of hundreds of millions of tiny hairs, to emulate their grip power and develop super– powerful glues. Because of the gecko, from the scientific point of view, everything is used.