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What Is Regeneration?

Regeneration is the process of replacing or restoring damaged or missing cells, tissues, organs, and even entire body parts to full function. Some animals, like the tiny freshwater animal hydra, have extensive regenerative abilities, such as forming two whole bodies after being cut in half. On the other hand, humans have limited regenerative abilities, which include healing bone fractures, regrowing hair, and forming thick scars at the sites of burns or cuts.

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An animal with a tubular body and three armlike structures attached at its middle. Short tentacles extend from the end of both its main body and armlike structures.  

Health Effects

Human organs and tissues have varied capacities for regeneration. Those with the least regenerative capacity—including the brain, spinal cord, heart, and joints—are subject to diseases that are partly the result of the body’s inability to replace damaged cells or tissues in these areas. Learning more about the regenerative processes in other organisms could give clues to repairing damaged organs or even, someday, replacing lost limbs in humans.

Research Organisms

Most research organisms used to study regeneration can regrow body parts that humans can’t. These organisms are useful for studying the possibilities of regeneration because humans have similar genes to these animals. However, scientists don’t yet fully understand how to turn on such processes in humans.


NIGMS Biomedical Beat Blog promotion.  

Biomedical Beat blog posts related to regeneration.

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NIGMS Educational Resources


Issue of Pathways student magazine focused on regeneration (grades 6-12).

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A man giving a lecture.  

A videocast of the NIGMS DeWitt Stetten Jr. Lecture describing regeneration in the planaria flatworm and its implications for regeneration in humans.

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Other Resources

This page last updated on 12/11/2023 2:53 PM