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Tanaka Lab

Research Interests

Molecular mechanisms of vertebrate regeneration

Research Area

Our group seeks to understand the cellular mechanisms underlying salamander limb and spinal cord regeneration as a model for how successful regeneration occurs in a vertebrate. This model acts as a starting point to rigorously investigate how mammals such as mice have lost regeneration capabilities over evolution. In addition, these studies act as a springboard to design novel strategies for regenerating or replacing mammalian tissues. Toward that end we have engineered three-dimensional spinal cord tissue from mouse embryonic stem cells and retinal pigment epithelia from human embryonic stem cells.

Current Members

Tanaka, Elly M (Principal Investigator/Director) Contact

Additional Information

Unravelling the molecular cell biology of limb and spinal cord regeneration and the evolution of regeneration. Salamanders have the remarkable capability to regenerate their limbs and spinal cords. Our group has developed molecular genetics in the axolotl in order to identify the stem cells responsible for this complex regeneration, and the injury-responsive signals that initiate their proliferation. We have also identified signals that guide the regeneration process to form a faithfully constructed organ with the right types of cells at the right time. For example, we have recently identified a factor that is released from the epidermis that first forms after an injury. In addition, we found that, in the salamander spinal cord, adult type neural stem cells dedifferentiate to an embryonic type neural stem cell in order to grow the new spinal cord. This process involves the upregulation of molecular factors involved in planar cell polarity signalling that ensure that the neural stem cells not only divide in the correct orientation, but also cause them to self-renew at the early stages of regeneration. Finally, we are interested in the role of novel gene function in these processes. We are now starting to study why the regeneration process ceases to work in frogs after metamorphosis, and why it occurs only in the fingertip of a mouse. We are tracing cognate stem cell populations in these different species to determine if stem cell behaviour and potential vary among animals, and correspondingly we are studying how the cells differ in response to regeneration associated signals.


Institution: Research Institute of Molecular Patholog

ILAR Code: Etnka

Research Institute of Molecular Pathology

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