Genetic Key to Whole-Body Regeneration | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED


Genetic Key to Whole-Body Regeneration

Researchers are shedding new light on how animals perform whole-body regeneration, and uncovered a number of DNA switches that appear to control genes used in the process.
When it comes to regeneration, some animals are capable of amazing feats -- if you cut the leg off a salamander, it will grow back. When threatened, some geckos drop their tails as a distraction, and regrow them later.

Other animals take the process even further. Planarian worms, jellyfish, and sea anemones can actually regenerate their entire bodies after being cut in half.

Led by Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Mansi Srivastava, a team of researchers is shedding new light on how animals pull off the feat, and uncovered a number of DNA switches that appear to control genes for whole-body regeneration. The study is described in a March 15 paper in Science.

Using three-banded panther worms to test the process, Srivastava and Andrew Gehrke, a post-doctoral fellow working in her lab, found that a section of non-coding DNA controls the activation of a "master control gene" called early growth response, or EGR. Once active, EGR controls a number of other processes by switching other genes on or off.

"What we found is that this one master gene comes on...and that's activating genes that are turning on during regeneration," Gehrke said. "Basically, what's going on is the non-coding regions are telling the coding regions to turn on or off, so a good way to think of it is as though they are switches."

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