Why can species such as salamanders regrow organs and limbs while mammals cannot? This proficiency even extends to portions of the central nervous system, such as the spinal cord. In recent years, researchers have made good progress in understanding exceptional regeneration, finding that, for example, differences in the behavior of immune cells called macrophages are essential to regrowth. In the central nervous system, glial cells are somewhat analogous to macrophages in other tissues, and in the research noted here, scientists report on evidence for an equivalent importance in mammalian versus salamander regenerative capacities.
Given the macrophage and glial cell connection, this area of comparative biology is moving of late from speculative to relevant to clinical development. Numerous research groups are investigating the alteration of macrophage and glial cell behavior in order to spur greater regeneration in mammals. These cells can be classified by their behavior, either aggressive and inflammatory while seeking out pathogens, or more focused on aiding regeneration. Both behaviors are needed, but in mammals, and in the old, there is too much of the first type and too little of the second type of behavior. In learning
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