Our brains are a complex organ, and current treatments for brain injury are few and far between. But a new discovery could help in replacing human brain cells lost or damage due to injury, age, and diseases.

We know that lizards can regenerate their tails and spinal cords. But as it turns out, geckos can regenerate parts of their brain, too.

Researchers from the University of Guelph have discovered a type of stem cell that allows geckos to create new brain cells. This provides evidence that lizards may be able to regenerate parts of the brain after injury. Although lizards are often described as having robust neurogenic facilities, only a few of the more than 6300 species have been examined.

Research indicates that lizard brains are continually renewing brain cells, something the human brain isn’t very good at doing. The stem cells that were identified to produce these new brain cells were found in the medial cortex. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for social cognition and behavior.

Most regeneration research uses fish or amphibians as subjects for research. But lizards are more closely related to humans. So the discovery that geckos can regenerate parts of their brain could change the way we study the human brain more profoundly than previous regeneration studies.

The next phase of research will be to understand why some species, like geckos, can replace brain cells while other species, like humans, are not able to.

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