• Andrea Vidican

Researchers Discover how to Preform Amputated Limbs Regrowth in Frogs

Limb regeneration is an extremely valuable trait that has often been an exclusive feature to several semi-aquatic and reptilian species, such as salamanders, crabs, and lizards. Humans could only dream of possessing such wondrous capabilities. However, what may have once been an element of science-fiction for humanity, is now becoming a very real possibility. As of late January, a team of researchers at Tufts University and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute have been able to devise an effective medical procedure to regenerate amputated limbs in Xenopus laevis, a species more commonly known as the African clawed frog.

Adult frogs do not possess the ability to fully regenerate lost limbs, like humans. As a potential treatment, the team devised a five-drug concoction utilized in a silicone-based bioreactor, which they named BioDome, that diminished inflammation, halted the scarring process, and instead promoted the growth of new tissue, blood vessels, muscles, and bones. After leaving the bioreactor on the region of the amputated limb for a period of 24 hours, it triggers the regenerative process of regrowing the limb that may take up to 18 months. The regenerated limb had become almost completely functional as well; it was able to respond to different stimuli and the frogs were even able to use it to move around and swim effectively, as if they have never been impaired at all. Researcher and co-author Nirosha Murugan from Tufts Univesity in Massachusetts expresses the team’s excitement regarding the success of the experiment, “It's exciting to see that the drugs we selected were helping to create an almost complete limb. The fact that it required only a brief exposure to the drugs to set in motion a months-long regeneration process suggests that frogs and perhaps other animals may have dormant regenerative capabilities that can be triggered into action.”

While humans do possess minor regenerative abilities, such as the common ability to close open wounds, it is nowhere near as significant as being able to fully regenerate a lost limb. There have been notable exceptions; for instance, humans do have a unique ability to fully regenerate their liver if half has been lost, and some children have been able to grow back the tips of their fingers, though the new tissue will not likely function completely the same as its initial form. Thus, regenerating entire organs or extremities still remains something limited to superheroes.

Putting the aforementioned into perspective, this study is a definitive milestone achieved in the biological and medicinal fields. The success of the experiment essentially proves that limb regeneration can be initiated with the right biological components, and creates the potential for the same procedure to be used on mammals, and perhaps eventually, humans as well. An advanced procedure like this can improve the lives of many amputees. Currently, the most common remedy to amputation due to trauma, disease, or birth defects, is prosthetics. While prosthetics are primarily cosmetic and may serve as an adequate replacement, they do not possess the same practicality as an entire limb. If this study continues its success, so many amputees will have the option of being able to regenerate their own limbs back, which will be nothing short of a miracle.

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