The evolution of regeneration – where does that leave mammals?
Published: 21 June 2018
Department of Biology & UF Genetics Institute, University of Florida, USA
This brief review considers the question of why some animals can regenerate and others cannot and elaborates the opposing views that have been expressed in the past on this topic, namely that regeneration is adaptive and has been gained or that it is a fundamental property of all organisms and has been lost. There is little empirical evidence to support either view, but some of the best comes from recent phylogenetic analyses of regenerative ability in Planarians which reveals that this property has been lost and gained several times in this group. In addition, a non-regenerating species has been induced to regenerate by altering only one signaling pathway. Extrapolating this to mammals it may be the case that there is more regenerative ability in mammals than has typically been thought to exist and that inducing regeneration in humans may not be as impossible as it may seem. The regenerative abilities of mammals is described and it turns out that there are several examples of classical epimorphic regeneration involving a blastema as exemplified by the regenerating Urodele limb that can be seen in mammals. Even the heart can regenerate in mammals which has long been considered to be a property unique to Urodeles and fish and several recent examples of regeneration have come from recent studies of the spiny mouse, Acomys, which are discussed here. It is suggested that a much more thorough phylogenetic analysis of mammalian regeneration would likely reveal some important insights into the evolution of regeneration.