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No Science Fiction: African Spiny Mouse Regenerates Skin to Heal Injuries

Sep 27, 2012 08:18 AM EDT
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The African spiny mouse can re-grow its skin and hair follicles after being attacked by predators.

While amphibians like salamanders are known to regenerate their limbs, this is the first case of a mammal found to have the property of regeneration that is found very uncommon in humans.

Ashley W. Seifert, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Florida's biology department, monitored two species of the African spiny mouse - Acomys kempi and Acomys percivali - based on information received from his colleague at the Mpala Research Centre near Nairobi, Kenya.

He found that the mice have regenerative capabilities; wherein they are able to quickly re-grow their skin tissue after they are injured. When Seifert compared the skin of the spiny mouse with that of the lab mice, he found that the spiny mouse had skin that was 20 times lighter than the lab mice and required very less energy to peel it off, reported LiveScience.

This helps the spiny mouse to tear its skin easily when attacked by a predator and quickly regenerate the skin compared to the lab mice.

Seifert punctured four holes in the ears of the spiny mouse using a 4mm biopsy punch so as to figure out if it has regenerative capabilities. To his surprise, he found that the mouse grew the skin tissues as a way to heal its injury. "The results were astonishing," Seifert said in a news release from the university.

"The various tissues in the ear grew back through formation of blastema-like structures - the same sort of biological process that a salamander uses to regenerate a severed limb," he said.

He also noticed that the spiny mouse re-grows the skin on its body when it gets injured, but not as completely as it grows the tissue in its ears. The mouse also gets back its hair follicles; however, he found that the muscle below the skin did not grow.  

Seifert and other researchers hope that the mouse could be used as a model to help in healing human wounds and diseases.

The findings of the study are published in the Sept. 27 issue of the journal Nature.

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