Deer Antlers – A Model of Mammalian Appendage Regeneration

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Kierdorf U, Kierdorf H. Deer antlers – a model of mammalian appendage regeneration: an extensive review. Gerontology. 2011;57(1):53-65. PubMed PMID: 20332600. [Free full text via PubMed]

Biologists at the University of Hildesheim, Germany, reviewed the scientific literature comparing deer antler regeneration with regenerative processes in other vertebrates. Recent studies suggest that antler regeneration is a stem cell-based process and that, despite their enormous growth rate, the antlers appear to be resistant to malignant transformation, which offers research opportunities for cancer biology.

From the conclusion:

“For different reasons, a deeper understanding of antler regeneration can be important for regenerative medicine. Thus, studying the mechanisms involved in the healing of the casting wound may provide clues for reducing scarring during wound healing in humans. In addition, a more profound understanding of the molecular mechanisms controlling antler renewal could lead to new therapeutic approaches in stimulating limb regeneration. It has been suggested that the challenge of inducing limb regeneration in humans is to find a way to induce fibroblast dedifferentiation in the stump. This assumes that if limb regeneration could be induced in mammals, it would use mechanisms similar to those operating in amphibian limbs. This assumption may be true and is clearly a reasonable starting point for further research. However, antlers demonstrate that appendage regeneration in a mammal can also occur in a different way, suggesting that it may be worthwhile to also consider other approaches to stimulate a regenerative response. Finally, the antlers are of medical interest as a model for studying how a structure undergoing rapid regenerative growth can escape cancer development. In our view, the above prospects fully justify an intensification of studies on antler regeneration despite the obvious challenges posed by using deer as experimental animals.”

Fascinating reading, accompanied by exemplary photographs.

Free full text is available via PubMed.

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