(Image by Thomas Lozito)
(Image by Thomas Lozito)

The Lozito laboratory studies limb and tail regeneration in salamanders and lizards with the long-term goal of developing strategies for improving mammalian regeneration.

We are particularly interested in what accounts for divergent regenerative capabilities among vertebrates, and our lab at USC is one of the only labs in the world that studies both lizard and salamander tissue regeneration. For example, lizards and salamanders both exhibit the amazing ability to regenerate amputated tails. However, while the salamander’s regenerated tail is a perfect copy of the original, the lizard regenerates an “imperfect replicate.” The most striking of these “imperfections” concerns the skeleton, which takes the form of an unsegmented cartilage tube rather than a vertebral column.

Our research compares skeletal regeneration in lizards (Lepidodactylus lugubris) and salamanders (Ambystoma mexicanum), looking for what they have in common, how they differ, and why they end up with such different regenerative outcomes. For example, we have determined that lizard and salamander blastemas (the collection of cells that differentiate into the tissue of the regenerated tail) form in very different ways—findings with potential for improving mammalian regeneration.

Finally, we compare these “super healing” species with non-regenerating mice towards inducing limb, tail, and spinal cord regeneration.