Review Article | Open Access
From Hydra Regeneration to Human Brain Structural Plasticity: A Long Trip through Narrowing Roads
Regeneration is a strategy to maintain form and function throughout life. Studies carried out on animal models throughout the phylogenetic tree have flourished in the last decades in search of mechanisms underlying the regenerative processes. The development of such studies is strictly linked with stem cell research and both are viewed as one of the most promising outcomes for regenerative medicine; yet, regeneration, stem cells, and tissue repair do not seem to follow a logical path through the different animal species and tissues. As a result, some mammalian organs, e.g., kidney and brain, have lost most of their regenerative capacity. The human nervous system, although harboring neural stem cells, is placed at the extreme of “perennial” tissues. In addition, it is affected by neurodegenerative diseases, whose heavy burden is heightened by enhanced life spans. This review, starting from the basic principles of tissue regeneration viewed in a comparative context, tries to answer this question: To which extent can regenerative medicine be figured out in a mammalian brain equipped with many anatomical/evolutionary constraints?