Leopard geckos can make new brain cells, study says

A new study reveals that leopard geckos can make new brain cells.
By Tyler MacDonald | Oct 08, 2019
A team of researchers from University of Guelph in Canada just discovered the stem cell types that geckos use to create new brain cells, effectively providing evidence that the lizards might be able to regenerate certain parts of their brain following injury.

"The brain is a complex organ and there are so few good treatments for brain injury, so this is a very exciting area of research," said Matthew Vickaryous in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC). "The findings indicate that gecko brains are constantly renewing brain cells, something that humans are notoriously bad at doing."

The data is the first to provide evidence of new neuron formation in the brain of the leopard gecko. Not only that, it's the first study to reveal the presence of stem cells in the same area.

"Most regeneration research has looked at zebrafish or salamanders," said Rebecca McDonald, a master's student who led the study. "Our work uses lizards, which are more closely related to mammals than either fish or amphibians."

The team found that stem cells produce new brain cells regularly in the medial cortex, which is a region in the front of the brain that is needed for behavior and social cognition.

"The next step in this area of research is to determine why some species, like geckos, can replace brain cells while other species, like humans, cannot," McDonald said.

"Recently, there's been a lot of new information coming out about the brain's ability to produce new cells, something that was long thought to be impossible," she added. "This is definitely an area of research that has the potential to change the way we treat brain injuries."

The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

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