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Keywords:

  • regeneration;
  • cellular plasticity;
  • dedifferentiation;
  • newts;
  • salamanders;
  • development

Abstract

Within the animal kingdom, there are several examples of organisms with remarkable regenerative abilities. Among vertebrates, newts appear to be the most adept at replacing lost structures and injured organs and can regenerate their limbs, tails, spinal cords, jaws, retinas, lenses, optic nerves, intestines, and heart ventricles. This regenerative ability is dependent on the induction of an unusual degree of cellular plasticity near the site of injury. Mature cells lose their differentiated characteristics and revert to proliferating progenitor cells that will later redifferentiate to replace the lost or injured tissues. This degree of cellular plasticity appears to be restricted to those vertebrates with the most remarkable regenerative abilities and is not observed in mammals. However, in the last several years, there have been a few studies suggesting that certain factors present in newt tissues can induce a dedifferentiation response in mammalian cells. These results suggest that the knowledge gained from studying the molecular basis of cellular plasticity in newts and other regeneration-competent model organisms might one day be used to enhance the regenerative potential in mammals. Anat Rec (Part B: New Anat) 287B:25–35, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.