Toetips of mammals regrow after amputation by a process similar, but not identical, to that which occurs during regeneration of a newt limb. Nerve is needed as a mitotic stimulant for newt limb regeneration but the requirement for nerve during rodent digit-tip regeneration is not known. Nerve dependence in rats was tested by severing the sciatic nerve in one hindlimb, amputating digit-tips from the central digits of both hind feet, and comparing the amount of regrowth in innervated and denervated digits. Denervation delayed soft-tissue wound healing. However, denervation did not significantly affect bone regrowth when animals were examined at one month. Because we suspected delayed bone regrowth, we used a new method that we developed to follow bone growth at several time points in each animal. Termed visible bone fluorescence through nail, this technique used serial injections of fluorescent calcium-deposition markers and observation through the toenails to observe bone growth in living animals. Using this method it was possible to detect retarded bone regrowth in denervated digits. Thus, although denervation of rodent tips delayed both soft tissue healing and bone regrowth, it did not prevent ultimate restitution of the amputated part. This suggests that neurotrophic stimulation in the mammalian digit-tip is not identical to that documented during newt limb regeneration, and that growth stimulation may be provided by tissues other than nerve.
ASJC Scopus subject areas