Paper - On the regenerative power of the uterus (1934)

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Selye H. and McKeown T. On the regenerative power of the uterus. (1934) J Anat. 69: 79-81. PMID 17104518

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This historic 1934 paper by Selye and McKeown describes the uterus epithelium changes in female rat.

Modern Notes: uterus | estrous cycle | rat

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On the Regenerative Power of the Uterus

By H. Selye and T. Mckeown

Department of Biochemistry, McGill University, Montreal

While the great regenerative power of lower animals has been studied by numerous investigators, comparatively little work has been done on this subject on Mammals. The reason for this is that the regenerative power of higher animals is less developed than that of the lower species. We feel, however, that the ability of the Mammal to regenerate mutilated organs is very much more developed than is generally believed. Thus we could show (see previous communication) that, if the distal end of the femur, including the junction cartilage, is removed in rats during the first few weeks of life, a new growth cartilage is formed and the growth in length is resumed (1). In the present paper we wish to discuss the results of experiments on the rat concerning the regeneration of the uterus after experimental injuries.

In twelve adult female rats we slit both uterine horns open by longitudinal section, running from the ovary along the entire length of the horns to the cervix. The muscular elements of the wall of the uterus opened the cavity of the tube as soon as this operation was performed, and the mucosa came into direct contact with the peritoneum.

One animal of this series was killed on the third, another on the fifth day after the operation. In both of them the margins of the wound, which had been pulled apart by the muscles of the wall after the operation, had partly closed again, and were connected with each other by young connective tissue cells (fig. 1). The remaining animals of the group were killed 14 days after the operation. In all of them the uterine horns were completely regenerated. It was impossible to detect even the scar of the incision at autopsy. Histologically there was no scar either in the mucosa or in the muscular wall of the uterus, and only the somewhat hypoplastic development of the submucosa showed the approximate position of the incision in some cases (fig. 2).

The mechanism of the regeneration of the uterus is difficult to understand, since the muscles of its wall tend to separate the borders of a longitudinal wound rather than to bring them together. We feel that the most likely explanation of this mechanism is that the connection between the wound borders is first made by fibroblasts. Thus a young scar tissue is formed. As this scar shrinks the tubular shape of the organ is reconstructed. In a later stage the connective tissue is then replaced by small muscle cells.

It is interesting to note in this connection that, while longitudinal slits along the uterine horn will regenerate so readily, transverse cuts dividing the tube perpendicular to its long axis do not regenerate except in rare cases. Fig. 1. Cross-section of the uterus of an albino rat 3 days after the organ has been opened by a longitudinal incision. A bridge of young connective tissue cells unites the borders of the wound in the lower part of the field.

Fig. 2. Cross-section of the uterus 14 days after operation. The original shape of the organ is restored. No scar visible. Only slight hypoplasia of the submucosa in the lower part of the field indicates the site of the incision.

All these experiments, which we performed originally on the rat, were subsequently confirmed on the mouse.

These observations give another example of the regenerative power of certain organs in Mammals. The histological study of our material has revealed the morphogenetic means through which this regeneration is accomplished, but the reason why the uterine tube is reconstructed after injury remains just as mysterious as any other process of regeneration.


(1) Senye, H. (1934). J. Anat., Lond., vol. txvit, p. 289.

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2020, October 29) Embryology Paper - On the regenerative power of the uterus (1934). Retrieved from

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