Researchers at the University of Guelph have discovered the type of stem cells allowing geckos to create new brain cells. It has long been known that Leopard lizards can regrow their tails, but new evidence suggests that the lizards may also be able to regenerate parts of the brain after injury. The finding could lead to treatments for replacing human brain cells that have been lost or damaged due to injury, ageing or disease, the researchers say.
This finding could help in replacing human brain cells lost or damaged due to injury, ageing or disease.
“The findings indicate that gecko brains are constantly renewing brain cells, something that humans are notoriously bad at doing,” said Prof. Matthew Vickaryous in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Ontario Veterinary College.
The researchers identified stem cells that regularly produce new brain cells in the medial cortex, a part of the front brain responsible for social cognition and behaviour. It is also a part of the lizard’s brain that has a well-studied counterpart in the human brain – the hippocampus.
To track cells in the geckos’ brains, researchers injected the lizards with a chemical label that gets incorporated into the DNA of newly formed cells. Looking at the labelled cells over time, researchers saw where they first appeared, where they migrated to and what types of cells they became.
“The next step in this area of research is to determine why some species, like geckos, can replace brain cells while other species, like humans, cannot,” said McDonald.