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Tadpole Tails Reveal Secrets to Human Healing

First Posted: Jan 15, 2013 01:09 PM EST

Most people are familiar with the process of a tadpole turning into a frog. In an almost magical feat of transformation, the fish-like tadpole loses its tail and grows legs. Yet what most people don't realize is that if a tadpole ever loses its tail, it will regenerate a new one within a week.

This particular capability is what interested Professor Enrique Amaya and his team at The Healing Foundation Centre. For years, he has tried to understand this regenerative process in order to utilize it to help humans heal themselves more effectively. The results of his research are somewhat surprising.

Professor Amaya found that several genes involved in the metabolism of the tadpole are activated when re-growing a tail. In particular, the genes that are linked to the creation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) are produced. However, ROS are usually believed to be harmful to cells.

More research needed to be done. Professor Amaya introduced chemicals, including an antioxidant during the re-growing process to see how vital the presences of ROS are in regeneration. It turned out that when ROS were inhibited, the tail did not grow back. 

These findings, which will be published in the upcoming issue of Nature Cell Biology, have significant implications for upcoming studies. Professor Amaya and his team plan to study ROS and their role in healing more closely. They are especially interested to see whether or not manipulating ROS levels in the body could improve the regenerative process. It could have significant impacts in the ways people are able to heal-all thanks to a tadpole.

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