Tissue regeneration requires precise temporal control of cellular processes such as inflammatory signaling, chromatin remodeling and proliferation. The combination of these processes forms a unique microenvironment permissive to the expression, and potential mobilization of, transposable elements (TEs). Here, we develop the hypothesis that TE activation creates a barrier to tissue repair that must be overcome to achieve successful regeneration. We discuss how uncontrolled TE activity may impede tissue restoration and review mechanisms by which TE activity may be controlled during regeneration. We posit that the diversification and co-evolution of TEs and host control mechanisms may contribute to the wide variation in regenerative competency across tissues and species.

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