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Matthew Vickaryous/Vickaryous Lab/University of Guelph

While broken bones can mend and torn tissue can regrow, if humans lose a limb, we live with that for the rest of our lives. And when we suffer a spinal injury, the cord never heals — but maybe it could. Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada are studying the regenerative abilities of gecko lizards, which are able to regrow lost tails, with the hope they will discover new and better ways for humans to heal themselves.

If this seems like an idea plucked from science fiction or a comic book, that’s because it is. Fictional character Doctor Curt Connors, an antagonist and sometimes ally to Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, injected himself with a lizard serum in the hopes of regrowing his amputated arm. Instead, he cursed himself with a Jekyll-Hyde existence, transforming into a monstrous and hungry humanoid lizard. Fortunately, the real-life science of lizard regeneration is far less dramatic and far more promising.

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