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How Do Lizards Regrow Their Tails? Study Discovers ‘Genetic Recipe’

Lizards, when confronted by hawks or sadistic children, have a neat trick for escaping: they can lose their tail and then regrow a new one. Scientists now think they have the "genetic recipe" for how lizards do this, a development that could one day help humans regrow things like muscle tissue and spinal cords. The study, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS ONE, looked at the tail of the green anole lizard. While other animals, like salamanders, frog tadpoles and fish, have the ability to regrow their tails just at the tip, lizards can have satellite cells throughout their entire tails that can regrow into skeletal muscle. Scientists removed the tails from five lizards, chopped them into sections and identified 326 genes in each section committed to regrowing the tail. The hope is that by discovering the exact mixture and amount of the genetic ingredients in lizard tails, researchers can discover new treatments for a plethora of human diseases, injuries and birth defects.

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--- Keith Wagstaff