Principles of Regenerative Biology

Author: Bruce M. Carlson

Publisher: Academic Press-Elsevier, 2007

2007; 379 pp., $54.95


The scientific study of regeneration was initiated in the eighteenth century when the French scientist René-Antoine Ferchault de Réamur discovered that crayfish could regenerate their claws and limbs. Today, in the molecular age, scientists are just beginning to identify the genes and molecular pathways that control regeneration.

In Principles of Regenerative Biology, Bruce Carlson uses his extensive knowledge of the field to explore the history, biology, and possible future of regeneration research. Unlike many books on the topic that have preceded it, Principles of Regenerative Biology is written in an integrated manner in which every chapter explores a particular biological aspect of regeneration, rather than focusing on a particular organism with regenerative abilities or a certain type of regeneration.

For example, Chapter 2 covers the issue of the origin of cells that will give rise to the regenerated organ or structure. A variety of regenerating systems and cellular mechanisms are discussed including the production of progenitor cells by cellular dedifferentiation during salamander limb, lens, and retinal regeneration, Schwann cell dedifferentiation during peripheral nerve regeneration, proliferation of parenchymal cells during liver regeneration, and the activation of stem cells during planarian and mammalian tissue regeneration. This integrative approach is refreshing and also allows the reader to compare the mechanisms of regeneration across different biological systems. One minor disadvantage of this approach is that the same topic is often reiterated several times throughout the book as different biological aspects of the same regenerative process are discussed in various chapters. Although this might seem somewhat repetitive to those who are well acquainted with the field of regenerative biology, other readers, such as students, who are new to this field might find such reiteration helpful in solidifying the new knowledge they have just acquired.

Using this integrative system, Carlson divides his book into 15 chapters. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the field of regenerative biology including a very brief history, along with an overview of the types of regeneration that can be observed throughout the animal kingdom. As noted above, Chapter 2 addresses the origin of cells involved in various regenerative processes, while the following six chapters are devoted to the importance of the epithelium, substrate, tissue interactions, nerves, morphogenesis, and reintegrative processes in regeneration. In the subsequent six chapters, the author discusses several important topics including the relationship between regeneration and development, how aging affects regeneration, the influence of the environment on regeneration, the relationship between stem cells, cellular plasticity, and regeneration, tissue engineering, and the various efforts that have been made to stimulate regeneration in nonregenerating systems. In the final chapter, Carlson summarizes the important discoveries that have already been made and then provides a discussion of what remains to be learned and where he perceives regeneration biology may be headed over the next several years. This latter chapter could prove useful for stimulating new ideas for research projects in regenerative biology, and graduate students as well established investigators might benefit from carefully thinking about the issues the author raises.

Principles of Regenerative Biology contains numerous figures that are quite helpful in illustrating major concepts contained in the text. The figures are easily interpreted and often the reader does not have to consult the accompanying legend to grasp the meaning of the illustration. Both students and experts in the field will appreciate this attention to detail and the clarity of the figures in this book. Teachers will also find many of these figures useful for their lectures in illustrating the major concepts of regenerative biology.

Principles of Regenerative Biology is a welcome addition to the several excellent texts covering the field of regenerative biology. It is as up-to-date as any text can be with references to articles that have been published as recently as the spring of 2006. Its main strengths lie in the rich information it contains concerning the field of regenerative biology, its clarity of presentation, and its unusual integrative approach to the subject.


Reviewer: Shannon J. Odelberg, Ph.D., University of Utah, Condensed from a review prepared for Developmental Dynamics.

Review Date: December 2007

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