Regenerating tissues

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Science  27 Apr 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6387, pp. 374-375
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat4588

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Within the first days to weeks of embryonic development, communication between different cells places the brain and eyes within an emerging head-to-tail, top-to-bottom, and left-to-right body axis (1). Remarkably, two other biological situations can serve up heads on a platter: Some types of flatworm (planaria) can regenerate the head after body transection, and miniature brains can form from aggregates of mouse or human stem cells (organoids) (25). Axial self-organization also operates during regeneration in vertebrates such as the salamander (one species of which is the axolotl). Although they cannot regenerate a head, they can faithfully regenerate whole appendages such as an arm or leg. These examples highlight the remarkable self-generating ability of the body axis communication system and the competence of cells to organize themselves according to (re)generating cues. Substantial progress on understanding the basic principles and the molecular underpinnings of regeneration in the flatworm and salamander, including the recent sequencing of their genomes, has provided important insights and tools for understanding these processes (68), which could bring us a step closer to engineering human organs. On page 404 of this issue, Atabay et al. (9) and Hill and Petersen (10) have tricked the planaria into aberrant eye placement, revealing a fascinating underlying organ-placement system.