Over a 16-year period, Panagiotis Tsonis at the University of Dayton, Ohio, and colleagues removed the lenses of six Japanese newts (Cynops pyrrhogaster) 18 times. After each excision, the lenses regenerated. They did so not from remaining lens tissue, but from pigment epithelial cells in the upper part of the iris. There was no documented decline in regenerative capacity neihter due to aging, nor to repetition.
The paper published in Nature Communications reports: “In addition, despite beliefs that aged animals regenerate less efficiently than young ones (also discussed by Darwin), our experiments show that this is not the case in the newt. As regenerative medicine has entered a new era, the knowledge that aged tissues possess robust regenerative capabilities should provide the impetus to identify mechanisms underlying this capacity in the newt and compare them with strategies being employed to promote mammalian regeneration, such as the creation of iPS cells.”
Unfortunately, the authors don’t discuss possible mechanisms underlying such an extraordinary capacity. This absolutely has to be studied, because these mechanisms, when identified, may shed light at how we can manipulate mammalian and human cells in order to trigger at least somewhat similar effects. I find restoration of own regenerative capacity to be a very potent way of extending our lives, therefore this work in newts and other animals with fantastic regenerative abilities has to be continued and multiplied. Any ideas about how this may be done are welcome.