• Question: About a year ago, i was watching this program on TV and it was about people with disabilities and loss of limbs, and there was this little pink fish that they were talking about that regrew its body parts and they were going to take DNA and enter it into the people with no arms or legs, Is this a major invention? Is it still going ahead? (i may have gotton some of my facts wrong in the question because it was a long time ago scince i watched it, but if you know of anything like this then.......)

    Asked by luckye3108 to Betul, Bridget, Ceri, Laurel, Maria on 21 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Bridget Waller

      Bridget Waller answered on 21 Jun 2010:


      That sounds feasible! Animals have evolved all sorts of interesting ways to cope with the challenges of life, and so we need to research them carefully to work out how we can use similar strategies to help with medical science. Good question.

    • Photo: Betul Arslan

      Betul Arslan answered on 21 Jun 2010:


      The research is in progress. But yes, that’s the idea. If you are interested, many labs here in the USA are working on developmental biology (that’s the discipline that deals with body parts regeneration) They want to understand why humans can’t grow arm once it’s gone etc. Very cool, eh?

    • Photo: Laurel Fogarty

      Laurel Fogarty answered on 21 Jun 2010:


      I think what you are thinking of is stem cell research. Stem cells are a type of cell that has not yet matured into a blood cell or a brain cell or a muscle cell and they have the potential to change into almost any type of cell.

      If we can get stem cells to do what we want them too we can repair damage to limbs, or even help paralyzed people walk again. Its an amazing are of research. They do this kind of research in London. You can take a look at this page for more info (its quite detailed but very interesting)
      http://www.ucl.ac.uk/zebrafish-group/research/stemCell.php

    • Photo: Ceri Thomas

      Ceri Thomas answered on 21 Jun 2010:


      Are you sure it was a fish? I know that salamanders are capable of regenerating their limbs if they loose them. Perhaps what you were seeing on the TV doc was an axolotl- this is (sometimes) a pinky white salamander that lives underwater and is capable of re-growing limbs (the axolotl is one of my all time favourite animals!). The simplest way to describe how salamanders do this is that their cells in the region of a recently damaged limb are capable of becoming a whole range of tissue types (we call these pluripotent cells and these cells are present in all living things and make up the majority of embryonic cells). Researchers are trying to see whether they can reprogram certain human cells to behave in the same way as these salamander cells to promote new tissue growth and perhaps even limb growth. If they can identify the right gene in salamanders this would be a big help. A breakthrough like this would be HUGE and I think scientists would certainly try to develop it for humans and even other organisms that loose limbs! Cool question!

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