The secrets of a tadpole's tail and the implications for human healing

Scientists at The University of Manchester have made a surprising finding after studying how tadpoles re-grow their tails which could have big implications for research into human healing and regeneration.

It is generally appreciated that frogs and salamanders have remarkable regenerative capacities, in contrast to mammals, including humans. For example, if a tadpole loses its tail, a new one will regenerate within a week.

For several years Professor Enrique Amaya and his team at The Healing Foundation Centre in the Faculty of Life Sciences have been trying to better understand the regeneration process, in the hope of eventually using this information to find new therapies that will improve the ability of humans to heal and regenerate better.

In an earlier study, Professor Amaya's group identified which genes were activated during tail regeneration.

Unexpectedly, that study showed that several genes that are involved in metabolism are activated, in particular those that are linked to the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) - chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen. What was unusual about those findings is that ROS are commonly believed to be harmful to cells.

Professor Amaya and his group decided to follow up on this unexpected result and their new findings will be published in the next issue of Nature Cell Biology.