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Regen eration

Thomas Hunt Morgan laid out the foundations for modern study of regeneration with his book of that title in 1901.[1] Regeneration provides an excellent source of, in effect, natural experimental material. Observing cell lineage could show what happens in normal cases, but much of the process remained invisible. Experimental approaches such as transplantation could yield additional information, but also had limits. Studying regeneration could reveal cases in which cells change from normal conditions. What makes it possible for a planarian to regenerate a new head or tail, for example? Morgan asked whether existing cells change, that is whether they somehow became re-differentiated into a different kind of cell? Or did they instead generate new cells of the right type to make heads or tails? This raised questions about whether it was something in the organism as a whole that drove the changes, or whether the cells themselves were doing the changing? What was driving the organization of the organism - the cells or the whole of interacting cellular parts? Morgan captured these questions and understood that getting at what causes regeneration to occur in some animals for some conditions could reveal a great deal about development and about the role of individual cells.

  • [1] Morgan (1901).
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