Humans Can Regenerate Amputated Body Parts, Study Says

First Posted: Nov 30, 2016 03:10 AM EST

The technological advancements today could make almost anything possible. What if humans could regrow an amputated arm or leg? A new study of one of the closest invertebrate human relatives, the acorn worm, shows that human regeneration could one day become a reality.

In a study published in the journal Developmental Dynamics, a team of researchers at the University of Washington has found that acorn worms can regrow every major body part like the head, internal organs and even the nervous system function, even after it was sliced in half.

When these worms are cut in half, they regenerate most body parts after 15 days. In fact, they even develope a new neural tube, the precursor to a central nervous system.

Similar Genetic Makeup

The worms' genetic makeup and body plan are surprisingly similar to humans and scientists hope that these genes could pave way for human regeneration. If this is possible, humans could regrow amputated limbs or even restore spinal cord injuries.

"Regeneration gives animals or populations immortality," Billie Swalla, director of Friday Harbor Laboratories and a UW biology professor, said in a press release by the University of Washington.

"Not only are the tissues regrown, but they are regrown exactly the same way and with the same proportions so that at the end of the process, you can't tell a regenerated animal from one that has never been cut," he added.

Hope For Human Regeneration

The scientists believe that if the worms' self-healing genetic code is cracked, tissue from a human amputee could be collected and the genes from those tissues activated to trigger regeneration or regrowth. The astonishing thing is, since these worms could even restore nervous system function, the regenerated body part will be able to feel and move.

"This could have implications for central nervous system regeneration in humans if we can figure out the mechanisms the worms use to regenerate," Shawn Luttrell, lead author of the study, said as reported by the Huffington Post.

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