Scientists Uncover Genetic "Recipe" for Reptillian Limb Regeneration

Scientists Uncover Genetic "Recipe" for Reptillian Limb Regeneration

Gecko Missing Its Tail

The ability to harness the genetic formula found in reptiles to regrow appendages could make characters like Dr. Curt Connors less science fiction and more science fact.

Scientists are now one step closer to being able to stimulate limb regeneration in humans. A team of researchers from Arizona State University have discovered a genetic formula that allows for tail regeneration in lizards, and may ultimately be possible through the use of correct genetic ingredients in correct amounts.

The team used advanced molecular and computer analysis tools to examine the genes activated during tail regeneration- specifically in the green anole lizard, which can ditch its tail when caught by predators and grow it back later. Other animals like salamanders and fish can also regrow their tails- with growth occurring mostly at the tip. During tail regeneration, they each turn on genes in what is called the 'Wnt pathway'-a process that is necessary to control stem cells growth in organs such as the brain, hair follicles and blood vessels. Lizards, however, have a special pattern of tissue growth that is distributed throughout the tail.

"Lizards basically share the same toolbox of genes as humans," said Kenro Kusumi, professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences and associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "Lizards are the most closely-related animals to humans that can regenerate entire appendages. We discovered that they turn on at least 326 genes in specific regions of the regenerating tail, including genes involved in embryonic development, response to hormonal signals and wound healing." Kusumi was also the lead author of the ASU team's study of findings that was published in scientific journal PLOS ONE.

The researchers hope their findings will help unlock new therapeutic approaches to spinal cord injuries, repairing birth defects, and treating diseases such as arthritis. "Using next-generation technologies to sequence all the genes expressed during regeneration, we have unlocked the mystery of what genes are needed to regrow the lizard tail," said Kusumi. "By following the genetic recipe for regeneration that is found in lizards, and then harnessing those same genes in human cells, it may be possible to regrow new cartilage, muscle or even spinal cord in the future."

Wanna learn more about our cold-blooded friends? Check out this article on how turtles talk to their young!

Source: Phys.org

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Reptillain? Is that a particular type of reptilian villain? :-)

hmm. i'm sure i've seen this movie.

Damn, well now if they can just incorporate that mojo into a mammal and slowly bridge it across species back to us...

Let's get the obvious joke out of the way: Yeah, because that worked well for Curt Connors right?

I volunteer for anole genes immediately.

Shove in the genes to change my skin colour depending on mood while you're at it.

Better joke out of the way: They experiment with it a little, and...

At least there isn't much IN Arizona.

I've been waiting for this. Fuck I love science.

Yes! Because we nned to create a race of Supervillain Lizard people to fight off the oncoming Ebola Zombie hordes.

May one who is much more scientifically educated than I answer me when I ask this.
When they say that "Lizards are the most closely-related animals to humans that can regenerate entire appendages.", does that mean that they are close enough for an actual scientific breakthrough, or is this like when people were getting all hyped for replacing diabetic people's pancreases when they still carried the gene and their children would inherit it?

When they get this to work I am so getting the treatment and cutting off my legs because my knees are major f***ed up and my legs are bowed from a birth defect

So basically "We haven't yet established that it's possible, but we haven't established that it's impossible either!"

Also, didn't Dr Connors keep losing his leg every time he turned back? I don't think that would be considered very useful.

Cool, but the day we start growing genetically modified human beings in laboratories is the day I'm out.

You all realize how horrifying this would be? While we're at it, lets give human beings shark teeth, the ability to be 15 ft tall and 8 limbs like spiders. Oh, and lets spit acid and molt our skin.

YAY! SCIENCE! SUCH A GOOD, GOOD THING IT IS....

I mean... cloning alone is horrible, let alone CHANGING what we are... its bad enough that we do it to animals...

captcha: hold your tongue

MAKE ME! someone's gotta be the voice of reason 'round here. SCIENCE SUCKS

Hm. So from what I'm reading, the tail itself is actually structured in such a way as to specially facilitate this. That may prove a challenge, then.

But then again, I guess we do regrow plenty of things already. Maybe it's not that far off.

Excellent article.

Jumwa:
I volunteer for anole genes immediately.

Shove in the genes to change my skin colour depending on mood while you're at it.

Would you like a dewlap as well?

Artanis:
May one who is much more scientifically educated than I answer me when I ask this.
When they say that "Lizards are the most closely-related animals to humans that can regenerate entire appendages.", does that mean that they are close enough for an actual scientific breakthrough, or is this like when people were getting all hyped for replacing diabetic people's pancreases when they still carried the gene and their children would inherit it?

Well theyve only discovered the gene as of now, the article says nothing of whether theyre anywhere near actual use in humans. This happens all the time when there are discoveries like this. Its entirely possible that this will lead to humans who can regrow body parts, but it sure as hell wont be soon. Itll go through years, decades even of testing, and ethics debates etc. etc.

michael87cn:

You all realize how horrifying this would be? While we're at it, lets give human beings shark teeth, the ability to be 15 ft tall and 8 limbs like spiders. Oh, and lets spit acid and molt our skin.

No one in the history of Man has ever said they wanted this. And if they did, so what? It's bad because you think it's icky?

SCIENCE SUCKS

Fine, we'll just take back your small pox inoculation, and the polio one, and your car, your food, your house (at least all the electrical things). And if you get sick, don't bother showing up to a hospital, you don't want to get science all over you.

killerbee256:

Jumwa:
I volunteer for anole genes immediately.

Shove in the genes to change my skin colour depending on mood while you're at it.

Would you like a dewlap as well?

It'll help impress my wife during mating, so why not?

If we can unlock regeneration for specific limbs without causing the same regeneration to cause growth in the brain and other tissues that would be great. Unfortunately I got this feeling that the way the gene works it would probably do more harm than good to us humans. Otherwise we'd probably have the ability given it would have increased our long term survival.

Colt47:
If we can unlock regeneration for specific limbs without causing the same regeneration to cause growth in the brain and other tissues that would be great. Unfortunately I got this feeling that the way the gene works it would probably do more harm than good to us humans. Otherwise we'd probably have the ability given it would have increased our long term survival.

Thats, not how evolution works. No mammal to my knowledge has this ability because to regrow a limb would require an incredible amount of energy. Energy that we cant spare due to 2 big reasons. One, mammals are just much bigger than most reptiles (the ones who can regrow limbs anyway) and two, mammals use a huge amount of energy just regulating our body temperature. Reptiles dont have that second problem, they regulate their heat through external methods, meaning they dont have to eat nearly as much to regulate their internal conditions, so their energy from food can go towards things like limb regeneration.

Its not that it would be harmful to us, its more that with the way we are built, we couldnt sustain it without a huge source of energy that we could never naturally get. However in this modern day and age where in 1st world countries, food is plentiful and medicine is more potent than it has ever been, its entirely possible that limb regeneration could become a common thing sometime down the road (Its gonna be a while before there is human testing)

The_Blue_Rider:

Colt47:
If we can unlock regeneration for specific limbs without causing the same regeneration to cause growth in the brain and other tissues that would be great. Unfortunately I got this feeling that the way the gene works it would probably do more harm than good to us humans. Otherwise we'd probably have the ability given it would have increased our long term survival.

Thats, not how evolution works. No mammal to my knowledge has this ability because to regrow a limb would require an incredible amount of energy. Energy that we cant spare due to 2 big reasons. One, mammals are just much bigger than most reptiles (the ones who can regrow limbs anyway) and two, mammals use a huge amount of energy just regulating our body temperature. Reptiles dont have that second problem, they regulate their heat through external methods, meaning they dont have to eat nearly as much to regulate their internal conditions, so their energy from food can go towards things like limb regeneration.

Its not that it would be harmful to us, its more that with the way we are built, we couldnt sustain it without a huge source of energy that we could never naturally get. However in this modern day and age where in 1st world countries, food is plentiful and medicine is more potent than it has ever been, its entirely possible that limb regeneration could become a common thing sometime down the road (Its gonna be a while before there is human testing)

No I think I got a pretty good understanding of how evolution works, the part that isn't working is people interpreting what is being stated. The first sentence happens to deal with trying to figure out how to get the genetic code working in a human if we were to use genetic engineering. The second sentence deals with evolution in the grand scheme of things over millions of years. I don't see any conflict with what I stated in the second sentence and your statement, as it WOULD require a ton of energy (and for that matter, both water and food) to facilitate the regeneration of an entire limb.

The point is that genetic code is a bit of a chaotic mess due to how evolution works to begin with. Nature doesn't really care too much about how organized it's coding skills are: if it can get a million monkeys smashing on keyboards and it results in a survivable organism, it's satisfied. Just look at some of the weird animals living in the ocean twilight and abyssal zones. We ended up with this fellow the gulper eel:

http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk/content.php?sid=3541

I could see this happen within a fair few decades.

"The_Blue_Rider" you are simply wrong, most mammals have evolved a different way of healing than reptiles or other groups like dinosaurs. Basically mammals developed a way to form a clot to stop the bleeding and close the wound quickly at the cost of more complete healing and regeneration that reptiles but also larger animals like dinosaurs had. It isn't a matter of us not having enough energy.

From an evolutionary perspective, the mammal's healing process is probably more effective. Because evolution doesn't give a frak whether you get to age 70 with all your fingers and legs intact, the only important thing is whether you reproduce or not.

But from our current, post-industrial view on things, it would of course be nice to have a much more complete healing factor for wounds and even limb regeneration, considering we already have other advanced means to treat wounds.

Genetics are nice and all, but I would rather regenerate my limbs with microrobotics
For some reason I feel safer about that approach.

The only downside to this i can see is that we may eventually go to "regrow the weak flesh limbs once lost" router rathern tha "Lets make artificial organs like Deus Ex" route. I want the latter, away with this weak flesh prison!

So I tried to read the original article and Kusumi has done a lot of work in examining lizard genome. I think it would be more effective to genetically engineer bacteria (taking the correct genes) to produce the necessary protein than it would be to engineer a human. The latter requires you to do the engineering before conception so already living humans would have no use of it.

 

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