Researchers use salamanders to fuel human limb regrowth project

May 23, 2013
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Researchers use salamanders to fuel human limb regrowth project

In a project that is eerily similar to the plot of the latest Spiderman movie, researchers are studying axolotl salamanders and their limb-growing ability in an effort to generate limb regrowth in humans. Specifically, the researchers are trying to determine what triggers the limb to grow back after amputation, a process they were able to effectively halt with a simple chemical change.

Such a project could, if it ever reaches its end goal, end up being a medical miracle, allowing humans who suffer limb amputation, whether it is an appendage as small as a finger or as large as an entire arm or leg, to regrow their body part. The process could also be used to promote healing without scars, eliminating issues with scar tissue, as well as healing burns.

When a human suffers a limb amputation, the wound heals over with scar tissue, resulting in a stump. The researchers recreated this healing phenomenon in the axolotl salamanders by eliminating a type of immune system cells called macrophanges, which the researchers suspected were responsible for the limb regrowth. Getting rid of the macrophanges resulted in the same type of healing humans experience.

What is particularly interesting is that once the macrophanges were restored in the salamanders that had been depleted of them, the limb that was removed and healed over regenerated when it was re-amputated - that is, surgically reintroducing the wound in the area where it had previously healed. This seems to indicate that, should a solution ever be discovered for human limb regeneration, it could be effective for those who have lost limbs in the past, rather than just those with fresh wounds.

Ideally, the research will lead to a kind of salve or similar topical that would be applied to an open wound, introducing the necessary chemicals to the area to enable limb regrowth. All of this, for now at least, is still a dream, with the project being in the research phase and the exact method that enables limb regrowth not being known. Such a prospect is certainly something to keep an eye on, however.

SOURCE: ABC News


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