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Study uncovers genetic switches that control process of whole-body regeneration

March 14, 2019 / Harvard University

When it comes to regeneration, some animals are capable of amazing feats—if you cut the leg off a salamander, it will grow back. When threatened, some geckos drop their tails as a distraction and regrow them later. Other animals take the process even further. Planarian worms, jellyfish, and sea anemones can actually regenerate their entire bodies after being cut in half. Led by Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Mansi Srivastava, a team of researchers is shedding new light on how animals pull off the feat and uncovered a number of DNA switches that appear to control genes for whole-body regeneration. The study is described in a March 15 paper in Science. Using three-banded panther worms to test the process, Srivastava and Andrew Gehrke, a post-doctoral fellow working in her lab, found that a section of non-coding DNA controls the activation of a "master control gene" called early growth response, or EGR. Once active, EGR controls a number of othe...