Here's one that's creepy enough for Halloween. Picture it -- a little mouse scurrying across the ground. Suddenly, a cat pounces, snatching the mouse up in it's jaws. But the mouse slithers out of its skin and escapes, leaving it's skin in the mouth of the cat before slipping away. But this gruesome skinless mouse doesn't die. Nope, it regenerates new skin, complete with it's mousey little hairs. Good as new.
This creepy-little-crawly actually does exist in the real world. It's called the African spiny mouse. This rodent has the unique and amazing ability to lose up to 60% of it's skin and regrow it, without any scarring. And we're not talking about little scrapes, either. We're talking skin completely removed, down to the muscle.
Scientists have been studying this (zombie-mouse? Franken-mouse?) because this ability to grown back large swaths of skin is unheard of in the world of mammals. Not only does the skin grow back, but also sweat glands, hair follicles, and cartilage, without any long-term damage or scarring. How exactly does the mouse do this? What is it about their skin that allows it to regenerate so quickly and perfectly?
Researchers are hoping pinpointing this information can help them understand the human healing process. Maybe one day it will help humans heal more efficiently, or help treat scarring. Because, really, we could use more efficient and effective treatments for acne scars.
Still, I couldn't decide if I was really interested by this new, or a bit disturbed. I'll go with interested... I think.
Source: Seifert AW, Kiama SG, Seifert MG, Goheen JR, Palmer TM, Maden M. "Skin shedding and tissue regeneration in African spiny mice (Acomys)." Nature 2012 Sep 27; 489:561. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature11499
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