Scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory Are Deciphering the Genetic Code Controlling Limb Regeneration
Many lower organisms retain the miraculous ability to regenerate form and function of almost any tissue after injury. Humans share many of our genes with these organisms, but our capacity for regeneration is limited. Scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, are studying the genetics of these organisms to find out how regenerative mechanisms might be activated in humans.
The ability of animals to regenerate body parts has fascinated scientists since the time of Aristotle. But until the advent of sophisticated tools for genetic and computational analysis, scientists had no way of studying the genetic machinery that enables regeneration. Using such tools, scientists at the MDI Biological Laboratory have identified genetic regulators governing regeneration that are common across species.
In a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, MDI Biological Laboratory scientists Benjamin L. King, Ph.D., and Voot P. Yin, Ph.D., identified these common genetic regulators in three regenerative species: the zebrafish, a common aquarium fish originally from India; the axolotl, a salamander native to the lakes of Mexico; and the bichir, a ray-finned fish from Africa.
The discovery of genetic mechanisms common to all three of these species, which diverged on the evolutionary tree about 420 million years ago, suggests that these mechanisms aren’t specific to individual species, but have been conserved by nature through evolution.
“I remember that day very well — it was a fantastic feeling,” said King of the discovery. “We didn’t expect the patterns of genetic expression to be vastly different in the three species, but it was amazing to see that they were consistently the same.”
The discovery of the common genetic regulators is expected to serve as a platform to inform new hypotheses about the genetic mechanisms underlying limb regeneration. The discovery also represents a major advance in understanding why many tissues in humans, including limb tissue, regenerate poorly — and in being able to possibly manipulate those mechanisms with drug therapies.
“Limb regeneration in humans may sound like science fiction, but it’s within the realm of possibility,” said Yin. “The fact that we’ve identified a genetic signature for limb regeneration in three different species with three different types of appendages suggests that nature has created a common genetic instruction manual governing regeneration that may be shared by all forms of animal life, including humans.”
In particular, the scientists studied the formation of a mass of cells called a blastema that serves as a reservoir for regenerating tissues. The formation of a blastema is the critical first step in the regeneration process. Using sophisticated genetic sequencing technology, King and Yin identified a common set of genes that are controlled by a shared network of genetic regulators known as microRNAs.
“Scientists here are studying an evolutionarily diverse range of animals to gain insight into the genetic mechanisms underlying the repair and regeneration of complex tissues and why these processes are poorly active in humans,” said Kevin Strange, Ph.D., the laboratory’s president. “The value of our approach is confirmed by this remarkable study, which for the first time reveals a genetic network governing limb regeneration that is common across three evolutionarily distinct animal species.”
The study also has implications for wound healing, which, because it also requires the replacement of lost or damaged tissues, involves similar genetic mechanisms. With a greater understanding of these mechanisms, treatments could potentially be developed to speed wound healing, thus reducing pain, decreasing risk of infection and getting patients back on their feet more quickly.
Another potential application is development of more sophisticated prosthetic devices. When a limb is amputated the nerves at the site of amputation can be damaged. The repair and regeneration of these nerves could potentially enable the development of more sophisticated prostheses that could interface with these nerves, allowing for greater control.
While speedier wound-healing and improved prostheses may be on the nearer-term horizon, the ability to regrow limbs is a long way off. How long? “It depends on the pace of discovery, which is heavily dependent on funding,” Yin said. He predicted the timeline could be hastened if enough research funding were available. “Unfortunately,” he added, “we are in a period of greatly diminished funding for scientific research.”
The Latest on: Growing new limbs
via Google News
The Latest on: Growing new limbs
- Why we need a new 1,800-home suburb in Ludlow on February 19, 2019 at 10:11 pm
We can’t continue adding one limb ... and grow old.” The councillor added: “We live in dangerous times when it comes to planning the future of our cities and towns. On the one hand, the government tal... […]
- Peter Jackson’s ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ Is a World War I Movie for the Trump Era (Column) on February 19, 2019 at 7:58 pm
I was a college newspaper intern who’d talked my way into the film’s American premiere on Aug. 15, 1979, at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York ... whizzing metal and limb-severing cruelty ... […]
- We live in prime territory for the growing of walking sticks on February 17, 2019 at 7:42 pm
It has a slightly disreputable New Orleans riverboat gambler shading ... perhaps one day the sign will have disappeared entirely inside the trunk. (Trees also grow completely around fences and barbed ... […]
- Medical Bionic Implants and Exoskeletons Market Will Hit a Grow of U$ 1,001.4 Mn by 2027 on February 15, 2019 at 7:22 pm
Advancement in new robotics technology (mind-controlled bionic limbs & exoskeletons ... www.sbwire.com/press-releases/medical-bionic-implants-and-exoskeletons-market-will-hit-a-grow-of-u-10014-mn-by-2... […]
- Good to Grow: How pruning is the way to grow on February 15, 2019 at 7:15 am
This is much easier to do as your tree or shrub is growing. Header cuts, as they are called, are best done on new growth, no more than three years old. If you make one of these header cuts on an older ... […]
- New trees take root at Westport's future community park on February 14, 2019 at 3:12 pm
These trees are already 12 to 14 feet high and will grow fast to 30 feet in 10 years. Some less obvious but also crucial changes include the 100,000 square feet of impermeable surface now removed and ... […]
- New turn in bike lane debate? on February 14, 2019 at 6:09 am
At a Wednesday public meeting at the Out On A Limb bar, 139 S. Schuyler Ave ... The majority of the $1.87 million will be consumed by new sidewalks, street lighting and string lighting over the 100 an... […]
- Barbie introduces dolls with wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs on February 13, 2019 at 12:17 pm
The new dolls are part of the Barbie Fashionistas line, which features dolls with a growing variety of skin tones ... She has a prosthetic limb," Culmone said. "[There will be] additional body sizes — ... […]
- Interventional Cardiology & Peripheral Vascular Devices Market is Determined to Grow US$ 28 billion by 2024 on February 8, 2019 at 6:25 am
Feb 08, 2019 (Heraldkeeper via COMTEX) -- New York, February 08, 2019 ... and may lead to plaque constructed-up within the arteries of limbs. Some of the interventional devices used within the market ... […]
- Green and Growing: An alluring little plant that grows in February offers less yardwork later on February 6, 2019 at 9:19 pm
“In winter, the plants absorb bright filtered light below bare tree limbs. They even photosynthesize under snow ... “Thawed, the rhizoids can attach to the new location more easily,” she said. Martin ... […]
via Bing News