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Volume 11, Pages 1270-1299
Review Article

From Hydra Regeneration to Human Brain Structural Plasticity: A Long Trip through Narrowing Roads

Department of Veterinary Morphophysiology and Neuroscience Institute Cavalieri Ottolenghi (NICO), University of Turin, Turin, Italy

Received 25 March 2011; Revised 21 May 2011; Accepted 24 May 2011

Academic Editor: Vince Tropepe

Copyright © 2011 Luca¬†Bonfanti.


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?