Researchers discover regenerated lizard tails are different from originals

October 8, 2012

Just because a lizard can grow back its tail, doesn’t mean it will be exactly the same. A multidisciplinary team of scientists from Arizona State University and the University of Arizona examined the anatomical and microscopic makeup of regenerated lizard tails and discovered that the new tails are quite different from the original ones.

The findings are published in a pair of articles featured in a special October edition of the journal The Anatomical Record. Researchers discover that regenerated lizard tails are different from originals Download Full Image

“The regenerated lizard tail is not a perfect replica,” said Rebecca Fisher, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, and at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. “There are key anatomical differences including the presence of a cartilaginous rod and elongated muscle fibers spanning the length of the regenerated tail.”

Researchers studied the regenerated tails of the green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis), which can lose its tail when caught by a predator and then grow it back. The new tail had a single, long tube of cartilage rather than vertebrae, as in the original. Also, long muscles span the length of the regenerated tail compared to shorter muscle fibers found in the original.

"These differences suggest that the regenerated tail is less flexible, as neither the cartilage tube nor the long muscle fibers would be capable of the fine movements of the original tail, with its interlocking vertebrae and short muscle fibers," Fisher said. "The regrown tail is not simply a copy of the original, but instead is a replacement that restores some function."

While the green anole lizard’s regenerated tail is different from the original, the fact that lizards, unlike humans, can regenerate a hyaline cartilage skeleton and make brand new muscle is of continued interest to scientists who believe learning more about regeneration could be beneficial to humans in the future.

"Using next-generation technologies, we are close to unlocking the mystery of what genes are needed to regrow the lizard tail,” said Kenro Kusumi, an associate professor in School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and co-author of the papers. “By supercharging these genes in human cells, it may be possible to regrow new muscle or spinal cord in the future."

“What is exciting about the morphology and histology data is that these studies lay the groundwork for understanding how new cartilage and muscle are elaborated by lizards,” said Jeanne Wilson-Rawls, co-author and associate professor in the School of Life Sciences. “The next step is understanding the molecular and cellular basis of this regeneration.”

Another interesting finding is the presence of pores in the regenerated cartilage tube. While the backbone of the original lizard tail is made of many bones with regular gaps, allowing blood vessels and nerves to pass through, in the regenerated tail, only blood vessels pass through the cartilage tube pores. This observation suggests that nerves from the original tail stump grow into the regenerated tail.

The researchers hope their findings will help lead to discoveries of new therapeutic approaches to spinal cord injuries and diseases such as arthritis.

The research team included Jeanne Wilson-Rawls, Kenro Kusumi, Alan Rawls, and Dale DeNardo from ASU’s School of Life Sciences and Rebecca Fisher from School of Life Sciences and University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.

This research was funded by Arizona Biomedical Research Commission, grant #1113, and National Center for Research Resources and the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (ORIP) of the National Institutes of Health, grant #R21 RR031305.

Sandy Leander,
School of Life Sciences
Al Bravo
UA College of Medicine-Phoenix


Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise


10,000 Solutions Showcase to highlight cross-section of innovation

October 8, 2012

The 10,000 Solutions platform will be marking its one-year anniversary by celebrating some of the top innovative solutions submitted to the website. The project was launched just over a year ago as an effort to fuel the power of collaborative imagination to create solutions to issues.

The project seeks input from the ASU community and the public for solutions to the world’s greatest challenges on topics ranging from education to technology and from health to human rights. In that year, 10,000 Solutions was able to collect more than 2,200 solutions. The solutions are varied, ranging from ideas to encourage healthier lifestyles to bringing back a popular song to Sun Devil football games. Download Full Image

Twenty solutions teams will be featured at and be competing for up to $15,000 in cash prizes at the 10,000 Solutions Showcase on Tuesday, Oct. 9. The prize money will be spread out amongst three awards: a Grand Prize Award of $10,000, a Crowdfunding Challenge award that will match raised funds up to $3,000, and a People’s Choice Award, selected at the event, worth $2,000.

The event also will feature a keynote presentation from Jaime Casap, Google Education Senior Evangelist. Casap will speak about the intersection of technology and education, and also how Google is able to turn ideas into a reality – a fitting topic for many of the budding entrepreneurs on the solutions teams.

The 20 finalist solutions teams were selected from the solutions uploaded over the previous year and represent some of the most innovative ideas from the platform. One finalist team, Vantage Realized, is developing a customized wheelchair designed to prevent injuries and physical ailments that often afflict long-term manual wheelchair users. The team is currently competing for Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2012 College Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Flash Food, winner of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup in the United States, is working to reduce food waste. A newer team, Bright Evolutions, is developing a mobile phone app to help travelers make healthy food choices, while also donating to permaculture projects.

For more information on the 20 finalist teams, you can see their original 10,000 Solutions postings, here:

The 10,000 Solutions Showcase will be in the Arizona Ballroom in the Memorial Union on Tempe’s campus. The event will begin at 6 p.m. To get more information about the event and to RSVP, visit

Media contact:
Daniil Gunitskiy,

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library