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How hydras know where to regrow their heads

Mechanical force helps guide hydra regeneration process

By
10:00am, February 9, 2017
hydra vulgaris

A new study suggests that stretchy skeletal structures play a crucial role in helping hydras (Hydra vulgaris shown) regrow their heads in the right place.

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Hydras, petite pond polyps known for their seemingly eternal youth, exemplify the art of bouncing back (SN: 7/23/16, p. 26). The animals’ cellular scaffolding, or cytoskeleton, can regrow from a slice of tissue that’s just 2 percent of the original hydra’s full body size. Researchers thought that molecular signals told cells where and how to rebuild, but new evidence suggests there are other forces at play.

Physicist Anton Livshits and colleagues at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa genetically engineered Hydra vulgaris specimens so that stretchy protein fibers called actins, which form the cytoskeleton, lit up under a microscope. Then, the team sliced and diced to look for mechanical patterns in the regeneration process.

Actin fibers in pieces

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