A mouse’s ability to repair its damaged ear tissue may have implications for new regenerative therapies in humans, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Nature.
The African spiny mouse could become a new base for regenerative medicine research in mammals, said Ashley Seifert, a 36-year-old Department of Biology postdoctoral fellow at UF who worked on the study.
After hearing about a mouse that could shed its skin to evade predators, Seifert packed his bags for Kenya in May 2009 to begin trials at the Mpala Research Centre.
“A mouse losing its skin doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “To locals, it was a novelty and not really something to look into.”
The researchers punched holes into the mice’s ears to test the ear tissue’s regenerative abilities. The team of six, which included Seifert, found that the African mice’s hair follicles regrew in the wounds.
He said in a regular lab mouse, 10 days of growth would produce a scar but leave the original hole. The African spiny mice generated new cartilage and “a pretty good reconstitution of tissue.”
Seifert said the mice’s ability to regenerate ear tissue is similar to salamanders’ ability to regrow limbs damaged by predators. However, this is rarely seen in mammals.
The findings have implications for multiple fields like regeneration biology, and wounding and scarring in mammals, he said.
“The hope is future research on these mice will lead to human therapies down the road,” Seifert said.
Seifert, who usually works with amphibians, said he was surprised multiple times during the process.
“Going into the project, it was like ‘This sounds really interesting, but we need to confirm this,’” he said. “It was just a series of ‘Wow, this is real.’”