You at one point might have wished for this superpower after a broken bone. This ability to regenerate is natural to some animals like salamanders and starfish. Recently researchers did the unthinkable; they were able to regenerate a limb for our small amphibian friend.
Even though you may think that we don’t have regenerative powers, we have the ability to heal from a cut. However, we do not have the ability to regenerate an arm or a leg like a starfish. Instead, when we lose an arm, our body uses scar tissue to cover it. This is a very common mechanism in a lot of animals to prevent blood loss and bacterial infection.
Researchers at Tufts and Harvard universities worked together to develop a 5 drug cocktail that is used to regenerate their limbs, bones, and nerves instead of just simply clotting it. In their experiment, the animal being tested is the African clawed frog. There are 5 drugs in this process and a silk protein gel. First, the researchers put 5 drugs and the gel in the silicone wearable bioreactor dome that is attached to the frogs’ limbs. Once the drugs are in contact with the stump, the drugs stop the inflammation while also inhibiting collagen production. The importance of stopping collagen production is that it prevents scarring so the researchers can attempt to regrow the limb. The rest of the drugs encourage the growth of nerve fibers, blood vessels, and muscle that makes the limb function as a normal limb. The most amazing thing about this process is that the frog only needs to wear the silicone wearable bioreactor dome for 24 hrs and only be exposed to the drugs once; this will kickstart an 18-month journey of regeneration.
To understand how regeneration is happening, it is crucial to understand the process called mitosis. Mitosis happens when the cell is not in the interphase. If the cell passes the G1, G2, and mitosis checkpoint mitosis and cytokinesis will happen. Mitosis starts as a diploid cell with double-stranded Chromosomes but ends with cytokinesis, resulting in 2 genetically identical daughter cells that are diploid but single-stranded. After this process, the cell will go back to the interphase and G1 phase where the cell grows preparing for its next mitosis cycle. Mitosis is crucial for regeneration since it produces millions of cells in the frog’s body for a new limb to grow. With successful testing on amphibians, Michael Levin, a researcher on this project, said that they will “be testing how this treatment could apply to mammals next.”
This advancement in medical technology only serves to bring hope to future advancements like limb regeneration of human embryos. With so many people’s lives that can be changed for the better, I cannot wait for the future where we fully harness the power of biology. What do you think about this technology, and do you have ideas for other applications? Are there any downsides that you see?