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November 2015

Skin Autotomization and Regeneration—The African Spiny Mouse

Author Affiliations
  • 1Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Department of Dermatology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(11):1199. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.2434

Human skin performs several vital functions, including barrier protection, proprioception, heat regulation, and immune system modulation. It also has the ability to regenerate when damaged, but often slowly and at the cost of scarring. Across the animal kingdom, skin has evolved to perform similar functions in multiple different ways. The African spiny mouse, in particular, has developed the ability for autotomization—a process of self-amputating damaged or trapped body parts—as a means of escaping predation. While it is common in amphibians and reptiles, it is rarely seen in mammals.1

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