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Can Electricity Regenerate Lost Limbs and Damaged Organs?

By studying how electricity works in our bodies, Tufts University's Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology believes we might be able to regenerate lost organs and limbs.

What’s the Latest Development?

Michael Levin, director of Tufts University’s Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, believes that by better understanding our bodies as hosts of electric current, we might be able to regenerate lost organs and limbs. “He thinks that the key to regenerationthe key to pattern, to shapemay be found in the electrical signals that are transmitted among all our cells, much like the ones and zeros that zip along a computer’s hard drive. … Levin’s lab has produced four-headed flatworms and grown an eye from scratch on a tadpole’s belly.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Over the next few years, Levin expects to begin experimenting on mammals. If the experiments go well, human regeneration could become a reality within our lifetime. Already, there is some precedent for our regenerative capacity: “If a child experiences a neat slice through the end of his fingertip, that tip will grow backa talent that disappears sometime between the ages of seven and eleven. …were you to lose part of your liver, it would, in fact, regenerate. With the exception of our skin, it’s the only human organ that has that capability.”

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