Geckos May Hold Key to Human Spinal Cord Repair

Under threat, a gecko can detach its tail, distracting a predator and enabling the lizard to hightail it to safety. In about 30 days, the tail grows back – a feat of tissue regeneration that could hold clues for repairing spinal cord injuries in humans, according to Ontario Veterinary College professor Matthew Vickaryous.

Vickaryous discovered that stem cells called radial glial cells allow the gecko’s tail to regrow.

Ontario Veterinary College professor Matthew Vickaryous poses with a gecko lizard
Ontario Veterinary College professor Matthew Vickaryous

Humans, he says, are missing the key cell types needed to repair spinal cord injuries. When such injuries occur, scar tissue quickly seals the wound. That quick repair prevents regeneration.

“Geckos are able to regenerate many tissues throughout their bodies, making them ideal models for studying wound healing and tissue redevelopment.”

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