We’re One Step Closer to Making Limb Regeneration a Reality

Scientists have just discovered that newts regrow limbs differently as adults than as babies - which could finally pave the way for limb regeneration in humans. 


Newts can regenerate limbs as both babies and adults. That’s unique among amphibians, and a trait that scientists would love to replicate for humans. One of the biggest hurdles in doing that was the need for adult cells to return to an infantile state for the regeneration process -- but researchers at the University of Tsukuba have just eradicated that limitation.

According to a study released in Nature, the researchers discovered that adult newts regrow lost limbs using different mechanism than they do as babies. Newts regenerate limbs thanks to skeletal muscle fiber cells (SMFCs) and muscle stem/progenitor cells (MPCs). Both cells spur the creation of blastema, a mass of cells that can grow into organs or body parts, as you can see here:

Credit:J0nesy/Reddit

Both SMFC and MPC cells are triggered in the regeneration process, but the difference is timing. MPCs are used to regenerate cells in a newt’s larval stage. SMFCs are used in the newt’s adult stage. Researcher Hibiki Tanaka explains it as "larval newts use stem/progenitor cells for new muscle in a regenerated limb while metamorphosed newts recruit muscle fiber cells in the stump for the same purpose."

The scientists made this discovery by inserting a fluorescent protein into newt embryos that glowed red when SMFCs and MPCs activated. Then the researchers amputated limbs from larval and adult newts that had been put to sleep. They observed the activity of SMFCs and MPCs as limbs were regrown, and discovered that the SMFC cells in the stumps of the older newts temporarily regressed to a more primitive state. The SMFC cells re-entered the cell cycle and produced more muscle cells.

Adult Newt Limb Regeneration Image.jpg

We’re a long way from using SMFCs to regenerate human limbs. But now that we know there’s a different mechanism for regenerating adult cells, we’ve got renewed hope in using newts as a model for limb regeneration in humans. The most likely potential treatments might come from genomics . Only time will tell.

According to a study released in Nature, the researchers discovered that adult newts regrow lost limbs using different mechanism than they do as babies. Newts regenerate limbs thanks to skeletal muscle fiber cells (SMFCs) and muscle stem/progenitor cells (MPCs). Both cells spur the creation of blastema, a mass of cells that can grow into organs or body parts, as you can see here:
Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice
popular

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less