Regrowing a lost limb seems like something straight from the pages of science fiction, but for some lucky frogs, it’s now a reality.
If you’re as clumsy as me, you’ll understand the toll walking into every item you see can take on your legs. As I grow older, it’d be nice to know that if I ever needed it I could just grow another one should my clumsiness inevitably get the better of me.
While we’re still a long way off from this dream being a reality, recent groundbreaking experiments have catapulted us forward significantly.
What Exactly Happened to the Frogs?
Scientists out of Tufts University in collaboration with Harvard University’s Wyss Institute have made a major discovery in the field of regenerative medicine. Their paper, published in the illustrious Science Advances journal last week, details the study that saw them trigger long-term regrowth of the legs of adult frogs.
The frogs, which cannot naturally regenerate limbs, were exposed to a cocktail of five specific drugs which worked to promote limb regrowth following a 24 hour exposure period. The frogs wore a bioreactor dome that sealed in the cocktail over their stumps for the duration of the study, after which an 18 month regrowth period begins
The typical healing process for the loss of a complex limb would involve a mass of scar tissue forming over the wound to prevent blood loss and infection. Some of the drugs in the proprietary cocktail sought to stop this process, while others promoted the growth of nerve endings and muscle.
The results saw many of the frogs growing almost fully functional legs with bone structure similar to that of a natural limb. They responded normally to typical stimulus and were able to function normally for activities like swimming
What This Research Means For The Future
While the implications of this study won’t reach too far at first, their long term effects could change the race of regenerative medicine. The natural next step for this technique is extencing trials into mammals to see if regrowth can be replicated. If this works, it could be the first step on a very long journey towards potential human trials.
Numerous diseases can result in the loss of a limb, including diabetes and some cancers. Trauma can also require the loss of a limb in order to save someone’s life. However, this has an enormous effect on someone’s quality of life. The potential to regrow limbs in a safe and controlled manner seems like something plucked straight out of science fiction, but we could well have taken the first steps to making this a reality.
With the speed at which medical science can evolve these days providing appropriate funding and resources, there’s no reason why this technology couldn’t come to fruition within our lifetimes if everything goes according to plan.
You can find the full journal article here.
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