Study Shows Body Part Regeneration May Be Part Of Our Future [Video]By Mark Spencer, UniversityHerald Reporter
For us humans, the prospects of regenerating body parts like many invertebrates have been a source of fascination and a deal of study. A myriad of species on the planet that has the ability to regenerate fast or regrow lost appendages; some even purposely lose a body part to elude capture from predators.
The regeneration of some of the species has now inspired a scientific research on chronic wounds that are non-healing and is found to be troublesome to treat. A type of coral reef aquatic acorn worm, one of the closest invertebrate relative to humans, can regenerate any of its body part that has been cut off, astonishingly, even its head and nervous system.
Over a decade ago, Ken Poss, a cell biologist at Duke University, along with his colleagues have demonstrated that zebrafish had the ability to regenerate a badly damaged heart. The researchers have determined that a particular protein was responsible for regulating the regenerative process.
Cell biologist Ken Muneoka, at Tulane University, has stated that humans have already demonstrated regenerative abilities. However, these abilities are found only in very young children. He states that children can fill out cut off tips of fingers and toes. Although this is, still nothing compared to a salamander, which can grow a whole appendage.
According to scientists, the aquatic acorn worm is unusually similar in body structure to us humans. Additionally, humans possess most of the same genes; therefore, we should also be capable of regeneration. According to biology professor Billie Swalla, in a University of Washington press release, he stated that humans have the potential to regenerate. He adds there is something that is not allowing regeneration to happen, according to their published study.
It does sound outlandish and bordering on the realm of science fiction, however, the proof that humans do have the same genes, the only thing stopping us from possessing the ability to regenerate lies on how to turn on these genes. Turning on these genes, scientists believe, would render regeneration of human body parts achievable. The challenge now is to figure out the mechanisms involved, the acorn worms use to regenerate.
Humans, to some degree, can regrow parts of organs and skin cells; however, we have lost all ability to regenerate complete body parts. Scientists suspect that our immune system could be highly responsible in its effort to prevent infection. It is thought that it inhibits regeneration by creating impenetrable scar tissues over wounds.
Another theory is that our relative size might take too much energy for us to regenerate. The researchers are hard at work in trying to decipher the type of cells the worms use to regenerate. It is highly likely that stem cells are involved, or that the worms are reassigning cells to regrowing tissue.