A Structural and Functional Investigation of Reptilian Skin Using the Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius)
Skin is a bi-layered organ that heals either through scar formation or scar-free regeneration. Using the leopard gecko, a species capable of spontaneous regeneration, we conducted a structural and functional investigation of skin before, during and after regeneration. Using ImageJ/FIJI, we quantified various measurements of vascularity and collagen architecture from skin of the original body, original tail, and regenerated tail. We also used uniaxial and biaxial tensile testing to explore skin function. Overall, we determined that the vascularity and collagen architecture of regenerated skin is structurally equivalent to original skin. With uniaxial testing, we found that the tensile strength of regenerated skin improves over time, but it never achieves pre-injury values. Using biaxial testing, we determined that the tensile properties of original skin varied across the body and during ontogeny. Taken together, these data underscore the complexity of skin and suggest structural but not functional replacement is achieved during regeneration.