Many animals can regenerate tissues, organs and even whole limbs after injury. In mammals, this capability is believed to be at best extremely limited, but these authors report that the African spiny mice (Acomys) are potentially important exceptions. Live-trapped A. kempi and A. percivali from Kenya are shown to share with certain lizards the ability to shed and then rapidly regenerate areas of skin. This skin autotomy is an effective defence against predators, who may gain a mouthful of easily-torn skin but miss out on the main prize as the spiny mouse scuttles away. Quite large, deep lesions can be regenerated, complete with hair follicles and cartilage in damaged ears, and with no scarring. The authors propose that these mice produce a pro-regenerative environment similar to that seen in limb-regenerating salamanders. This study suggests that mammals may retain a higher capacity for regeneration than previously recognized, and introduces spiny mice as a novel model organism for study of this subject.
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