Cellular regeneration is common in invertebrates, but much less so among vertebrates. Only certain reptiles such as the gecko can grow back damaged or lost limbs, a “power” that humans would surely love to possess! However, the human body is capable of regenerating only one of its parts. Do you know which one?
A lizard falls from a wall, loses its tail, and runs away at high speed. A few days later, you see the same lizard and you notice that it has a tail again, either in full or in part. This is what could happen if you meet the common house gecko on Reunion Island, which mainly comes out and night and lives in people’s houses.
The gecko is one of the rare vertebrates capable of such biological prowess, shared by many invertebrates such as starfish or the planaria (a type of freshwater flat worm). However, a gecko is not a mammal, and at the present moment, we do not know of any mammal capable of cell regeneration to the extent that they could grow back a lost limb or body part.
Human beings are capable of cell regeneration for only one of their organs: the liver. This vital organ is situated to the right of the digestive system, inside the abdomen, and it is one of the body’s largest solid organs. It has three essential functions, including the elimination of toxins, energy storage and the production of important substances such as blood proteins.
A veritable filter and essential for the functioning of the human body, around 1.5 litres of blood passes through the liver every minute. However, as Nature is highly intelligent, the liver can self-regenerate. For example, if we remove three quarters of a patient’s liver, it will grow back to its original size within around four months. Thus, liver transplants are comparatively easy to carry out.
So what is cellular regeneration? When a person reaches adulthood, their liver, or more precisely, their liver cells, can divide into to identical cells. Thus the cells multiply starting from only one cell, which allows the organ to grow back to its normal size. Imagine the potential! Skin grafts are also common, but in reality, although the skin can heal, it is only able to form scar tissue, which is not the same. The cells don’t divide in order to multiply, but rather they are renewed.
Find out more in the following video: