Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Scientists Identify Gene that Helps Salamanders Regrow Limbs

University of Montreal researchers have identified a gene that allows limb regeneration in the axolotl, a salamander that lives in Mexican lakes.

The gene, called TGF-beta 1, controls the generation and movement of new cells, and allows the axolotl to regrow complex structures like limbs, tail, jaw, spinal cord and even parts of its brain.

Humans also have this gene. The difference is that in humans, instead of telling a limb to regenerate, the gene tells the wounded area to heal and form a scar. If scientists can find a way to manipulate TGF-beta in humans, it could lead to the ability to regrow organs and limbs, as well as treatments for spinal cord injury and severe burns.

In the study, the scientists used a drug that inhibited the gene in axolotls. The treated axolotls couldn't regrow their limbs, proving that TGF-beta plays a role in regeneration.

The salamander study is published in the November 28 issue of PLoS ONE.

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