Humans could one day regrow lost limbs after scientists managed to get a non-regenerative species of worm to regrow its head.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden discovered a molecular switch that controls the passing of information between cells.
By switching this off, the flatworm was able to then regenerate its own head when it had previously been unable to.
Research group leader Dr Jochen Rink, said: ‘The rabbit can’t do it, neither can a frog, but zebrafish and axolotls can and flatworms are true masters of the craft.
‘Why some animals can re-grow lost body parts or organs while others cannot remains a big mystery.’
By understanding how to activate this ability in worms, scientists could one day use a similar switch to activate it in species that can’t traditionally regenerate – such as humans.
‘We are now one step further in understanding the factors that regulate regeneration after discovering a crucial molecular switch in the flatworm Dendrocoelum lacteum that decides whether a lost head can be regenerated or not. ‘continued Dr Rink.
‘And what is even more spectacular is that we manipulated the genetic circuitry of the worm in such a way as to fully restore its regeneration potential.’
SOURCE: VICTORIA WOOLLASTON