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Human Limb Regeneration Closer According to New Harvard Study

human limb regeneration

Human Limb Regeneration?

Ever since the development of CRISPr Harvard has been an American hotbed of genetic tinkering.

Now, Harvard researchers have announced that they’ve identified a “DNA switch” that allows animals to regrow entire portions of their bodies.

This finding, with a few qualifiers, has enormous implications, especially for human limb and organ regeneration..

Limb regeneration is an old trick for animals, some of which are capable of astoundingly useful performances.

For example, some geckos drop their tails off in order to distract hungry predators. Provided that this gambit works, the simply regrow them later.

If you cut off a salamander’s leg, it will grow back.

Worms, jellyfish, and sea anemones can regrow their entire bodies after being cut in half.

Mansi Srivastava,  an Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology has been leading a team of researchers that has revealed the physiological process that allow animals to regenerate limbs and organs.

In the process they have discovered a number of DNA switches which control genes for whole-body regeneration. according to a March 15 paper in Science..

The just-published research gives a detailed description of how Gehrke and the team sequenced the three-banded panther worm genome, a species that has ability to regrow major portions of its body.

The team discovered a “master control gene” that provokes an “early growth response” — a switch mechanism that they can epigenetically turn on to activate a complex genetic code that governs worm’s ability to actually regrow body parts and organs

Now comes the magic part: According to the team, the same gene switch is present in lots of other species.

Including humans.

At present, the ‘switch’ and gene sequence only seems to work at a cellular level for humans.

BUT the scientists think that could change with research and development.
.“It’s a very natural question to look at the natural world and think, if a gecko can do this, why can’t I?” evolutionary biologist Mansi Srivastava, who led the research, told the Harvard Gazette. “There are many species that can regenerate, and others that can’t, but it turns out if you compare genomes across all animals, most of the genes that we have are also in the three-banded panther worm.”

READ MORE: The genetics of regeneration [The Harvard Gazette]