Scientists are one step closer to finding out how lizards regenerate their tails, and they're saying that the findings may yield benefits for humans.
Researchers at Arizona State University studied nearly 23,000 genes in sliced-up sample tails of green anole lizards, a species of lizard that detaches its tail when caught by a predator.
Their research revealed that during regeneration, around 326 genes “turned on” during the process, showing that the DNA of lizards has a genetic “recipe” for regeneration.
"We were expecting all of the regeneration to be focused at the tip of the growing tail,” a professor of life sciences at ASU and co-author of the study, Dr. Kenro Kusumi, told The Huffington Post. “Instead, the cells are dividing in distinct pockets including muscle, cartilage, spinal cord, and skin all throughout the tail.”
Then, the cells grew into new tissues to make up a new tail.
According to phys.org, other lizard species can also regenerate their tails, with growth mostly at the tip. During tail regeneration, lizards such as salamanders, frog tadpoles and fish, all activate genes in what is called the “Wnt pathway,” when stem cells in the brain, hair follicles and blood vessels are controlled to heal the tail.
Researchers said their finding may have significant results for humans because nearly all of the 326 genes are present in humans as well.
If replicating the lizard’s regeneration process is successful, researchers can help treat diseases such as arthritis, repairing birth defects, and spinal cord injuries or even regrow new cartilage.
"As anyone who suffers from arthritis knows, an important part of the limb are joints, which are cushioned by a specific type of cartilage," Kusumi told HuffPost. "Lizards grow lots of this cartilage in their regenerated tails, and we hope that this process can be activated to repair arthritis in humans."