Friday, September 30, 2005

It has amazing regenerative powers!

Is it a bird?
Is it a plane?
No, it's just a mouse.

Some clever people in white coats have stumbled onto something pretty damn cool. The ability for mammals to regenerate any part of their body that has been injured. Researchers were intially looking into genetic autoimmune diseases using mice but stumbled onto autoregeneration.
Heber-Katz discovered the strain in 1998 accidentally while working with mice altered genetically for studying autoimmune diseases.

She had pierced holes in the ears of the genetically altered mice to distinguish them from a control group, but they healed quickly with no scarring.

The incredible wound-healing they observed abruptly shifted the focus of Heber-Katz's lab's research from autoimmune disease to regenerative medicine. The researchers began hunting for the specific genes that gave the mice their special powers. They are focusing on three specific genes at the moment, but she suspects that many more likely contribute to the regenerative abilities.
This research wasn't for the faint of heart, some of the tests they have performed on the mice sound a bit gruesome.
Researchers systematically amputated digits and damaged various organs of the mice, including the heart, liver and brain, most of which grew back.
And...
She and her colleagues wanted to find out what other parts of this strain of mice would grow back, so they snipped off the tip of a tail, severed a spinal cord, poked an eye and cauterized various internal organs.
Narrowing down the genes responsible for this regeneration could well be difficult. Then they have to work out how to apply the genes to humans. It could solve many medical issues and save manylives but there could be a dark side. How would this regeneration affect the recovery from cancer? If someone being treated with chemo or radio-therapy has the regeneration genes, won't the tumours regenerate after the treatment finishes?

This is just one of the problems that are exposed if the research leads to human regeneration. There will be a myriad of social and economic issues to deal with, nevermind the overpopulation if this manages to extend peoples lives.

Wired News: Mighty Mice Regrow Organs

1 comment:

Tom said...

Wow. Impressive, but the animal lovers would be aghast at the thought of mutilating animals to see what grew back.

Imagine if you could grow anything back. How awsome would that be.

Would people become less careful around power tools?

Such important social questions need an answer before we proceed to unleash this potentially dangerous situation on the general populace.

I wonder, though, if such a tool has any impact on the aging of mammals?