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Regeneration capabilities in humans?

Regeneration capabilities in humans?


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To what extent can humans, (mammals in general), theoretically regenerate, and is their a way to speed up and/or exceed this original extent.


Regeneration - or actions perceived as regeneration by popular culture - depend highly on age and specific type of cells (epithelial tissue cells are a fine example). But you can't regenerate a leg-bone once removed.

But to get a more specific answer you to make a more specific question and define the terms you're using.


The range of regenerative capability

Virtually no group of organisms lacks the ability to regenerate something. This process, however, is developed to a remarkable degree in lower organisms, such as protists and plants, and even in many invertebrate animals such as earthworms and starfishes. Regeneration is much more restricted in higher organisms such as mammals, in which it is probably incompatible with the evolution of other body features of greater survival value to these complex animals.


Evaluating the bone tissue regeneration capability of the Chinese herbal decoction Danggui Buxue Tang from a molecular biology perspective

Large bone defects are a considerable challenge to reconstructive surgeons. Numerous traditional Chinese herbal medicines have been used to repair and regenerate bone tissue. This study investigated the bone regeneration potential of Danggui Buxue Tang (DBT), a Chinese herbal decoction prepared from Radix Astragali (RA) and Radix Angelicae Sinensis (RAS), from a molecular biology perspective. The optimal ratio of RA and RAS used in DBT for osteoblast culture was obtained by colorimetric and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity assays. Moreover, the optimal concentration of DBT for bone cell culture was also determined by colorimetric, ALP activity, nodule formation, Western blotting, wound-healing, and tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase activity assays. Consequently, the most appropriate weight ratio of RA to RAS for the proliferation and differentiation of osteoblasts was 5:1. Moreover, the most effective concentration of DBT was 1,000 μg/mL, which significantly increased the number of osteoblasts, intracellular ALP levels, and nodule numbers, while inhibiting osteoclast activity. Additionally, 1,000 μg/mL of DBT was able to stimulate p-ERK and p-JNK signal pathway. Therefore, DBT is highly promising for use in accelerating fracture healing in the middle or late healing periods.

Figures

Effect of DBT extract prepared…

Effect of DBT extract prepared at various ratios of Radix Astragali ( RA…

Effect of DBT extract prepared…

Effect of DBT extract prepared from Radix Astragali and Radix Angelicae Sinensis at…

Effect of DBT extract prepared…

Effect of DBT extract prepared from Radix Astragali and Radix Angelicae Sinensis at…

Effect of DBT extract prepared…

Effect of DBT extract prepared from Radix Astragali and Radix Angelicae Sinensis at…

Effect of DBT extract prepared…

Effect of DBT extract prepared from Radix Astragali and Radix Angelicae Sinensis at…

Effect of DBT extract prepared…

Effect of DBT extract prepared from Radix Astragali and Radix Angelicae Sinensis at…

Effect of DBT extract prepared…

Effect of DBT extract prepared from Radix Astragali and Radix Angelicae Sinensis at…

TRAP staining of osteoclasts treated…

TRAP staining of osteoclasts treated with different concentrations of DBT extract (a) for…


7 Answers 7

As normal humans control their bodies on a gross level, demigods are aware and in control on a cellular level.

As an ordinary human, I have a modicum of awareness of my body. I can perceive an itchy place and scratch it. I am very aware of the state of and the alignment of my teeth, and position of my tongue. I receive consistent messages from bowels and bladder and I can intervene on their behalf when they signal their needs. Should I choose I can become aware of my breathing, a function which does not require my attention but over which I can take conscious control if I wish.

Your demigods have an even greater bodily awareness, down to the cellular level. Like my breathing, demigods can allow the cells to go about their business on autopilot and the cells generally get things done. However a demigod may choose to pay more attention to hormone levels, blood flow, sympathetic tone, and especially something like healing and regeneration. A demigod may choose to heal with a scar or not. Certainly an uncontrolled proliferation like cancer would be preempted by conscious volition. It may be that senescence of otherwise useful cells is also controlled consciously which give the demigods their long lives.

There are animals who are immune to cancer. According to this article, it is due to a specific protein called hyaluronan that causes skin elasticity and cancer resistance. The divine spark they have could cause, in addition to other abilities, an abundance of hyaluronan that provides cancer immunity(and elastic skin, I guess).

It is true that most cancer cells regenerate rapidly. However, that does not mean that rapidly regenerating cells lead to cancer. That's like saying "Horses eat a lot of food. My brother eats a lot of food. Therefore, my brother is a horse." The most rapidly regenerating cells in the body are not proportionally more likely to develop cancer. For example, the cells in hair follicles, nails, the mouth, digestive tract, and bone marrow all regenerate substantially faster than "typical cells". That's one of the reasons that people often look pale, get nauseous, and lose their hair when undergoing chemotherapy (most of which broadly targets rapidly growing cells).

As an example, the cells that line the stomach and intestines live less than a week, while, skin cells live a few weeks, and liver cells live from several months to over a year. If the likelihood of cancer was proportional to the cell turnover rate, you'd expect stomach and intestinal cancer to be the most common types, but they're not.

You might expect there to be some detectable increase in cancer rates as the cell replacement rate increases, because each division is a chance for a mutation that happens as a result of the division process itself. However, there are other, more common causes of cell mutation: radiation, environmental exposure to certain carcinogens, etc. It's even possible for rapidly dividing cells to be LESS susceptible to mutation, because the cells aren't exposed to the mutagen long enough, and when a cell dies, the mutagen gets removed from the body along with the debris from the dead cell.

As already mentioned by @RomainL, the immune system is responsible for keeping cancer in check. A stronger immune system (but not so strong as to cause autoimmune diseases) is the simplest way to keep cancer from developing. Also, the cells would probably need longer telomeres (which tell a cell when it's time to die for good). But there's SO much about our biology that is only barely understood, it's probably best not to get super specific about the mechanics of regeneration. Anything you come up with is likely to be proven incorrect, possibly very soon. Just keep it vague, and say the demigods bodies repair themselves much more rapidly than normal humans. Why no cancer? Answering that question would require teams of scientists to examine lots of demigods. If that's not happening in your world, then it's likely that no one knows the specifics, so don't try to explain it.

Cancers are complex diseases but one key aspect is that cancerous cells avoid detection by the host immune system, the simplest solution IMO would be to give your demi-god better immune system.

. I've been waiting so long to bust out my Naked Mole Rat knowledge unto this website. (The answer will be a bit simplified, since the Naked Mole Rat's mechanisms to prevent cancer/aging are very in-depth and complex)

Make em like Naked Mole Rats Baby!! Naked Mole Rats are exceptionally long lived creatures (living up to the age of 30 with no real degradation to its health) when compared to similarly sized creatures, like the mouse (which only lives around 4.5 years at best).

Functions that make Naked Mole Rats very long lived

Naked Mole Rat Ribosomes have a third piece in their ribosomes, which when compared to Mouse ribosomes make between 4 to 40 times less errors. This more precise translation of proteins reduces the chances of misfolded proteins occurring, which would otherwise reduce the lifespan of a Naked Mole Rat (since misfolded proteins are heavily theorized to contribute to the aging process)

HMW-HA (High Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid) in Naked Mole rats is five times larger than in other animals, which leads to HMW-HA accumulating in the Naked Mole Rat's body (along with a combination of less active HA degrading enzymes). This accumulation of HMW-HA prevents Naked Mole Rat cells from growing close together. HMW-HA is also the chemical activates the anti-cancer response of gene p16, which stops Naked Mole Rat cells from proliferating when too many of them are close together.

Side Effects:

Giving your Demigods the ability to produce HMW-HA like the Naked Mole Rat's would cause physical changes to the appearance of a Demigod. Their skin would become very elastic, much like the Naked Mole Rat's (and they ain't too pretty.)

Sources

Last Image obtained from this site

Website with data on the Naked Mole Rat's Unique Ribosomes

More in depth look at Naked Mole Rat's anti-cancer Mechanisms

To simplify it (a lot) you will get cancer if:

  • there is a faulty gene already present that practically ensures a person gets cancer at some point
  • the cell is exposed to something that triggers the wrong mutation
  • the combination of the above: there is a preexisting genetic risk, and then the right (wrong) trigger happens.

Side note: not all mutations are "bad". If some mutations weren't beneficial, then evolution won't happen. In fact, it's pretty much a random roulette: any mutation that won't kill an organism before it menages to procreate will get passed down to its offspring. The mutations that increase the chance of procreation happening are more likely to get passed down the line, but that's not essential. The mutation doesn't have to be beneficial. The only condition is, I think, that the given mutation must be at least not deadly until the organism manages to reproduce. The living organisms (humans included) end up with a lot of random stuff this way.

So, aside from cancer, the demigods may end up with different mutations, some of those they may even want to keep. For example someone loses an eye, then after regenerating it they end up with a vividly yellow eye, or the one that sees an unusual light spectrum (eg. ultraviolet).

What would stop them from performing the process a few times, until they end up with good/acceptable result?

The point to consider:

Usually cells can only divide a limited number of times, until their telomeres are too short and they can divide no longer. In a way, this can protect against cancer (which is a cell that divides uncontrollably) but I've read somewhere that sometimes cancerous cells protect their telomeres which makes them sort of immortal.

If the demigods have a very long/unlimited lifespan and are not ageing or ageing at a different rate that can also mean that their telomeres are:

Option 1) will make a scenario of "regenerate until I'm pleased with the result" possible, and will make your demigods virtually immortal.

Option 2) I think is more interesting. It means regeneration costs something. The more you regenerate, the faster you'll age and the sooner you'll die. If you regenerate your eyes too many times you may end up blind etc. It also makes a scenario of "regenerate until I'm pleased with the result" possible, but there will be limitations, for example you only try until you end up with something not deadly. This means there will be people with bad/random results: disfigured, scarred, with patchy skin, horns, six fingers etc. Because if they want to fix it, they have to pay with their lifespan, and many won't be willing to do that.

To limit the possibility of a mutation happening, the exposure to mutagens may be deliberately limited. For example there may exist special chambers you're suppose to go in to regenerate. There's no light in them, and the air is filtered. The forced isolation will be psychologically traumatic, but still a lot safer than not using the chamber. You'll regenerate outside the regeneration chamber only if you have no other choice. You don't go in sick if possible, as that will increase the risk of mutations (for example if you have a flu and your injury is limited enough that you can wait until the virus is out of your system, you'll wait). You go in completely naked. Before you go in, you're disinfected. You eat only a nasty nutritious paste through your entire stay in the regeneration chamber etc. Regeneration tanks may be another option instead of the chamber in this case but it's been done to death. Or maybe the tanks are only used when the damage is very significant.

An issue worth considering:

What if a person regenerates their reproductive organs and a mutation happens that affects the reproductive cells? They may even not be aware of it until a child with a mutation is born.

(I also like the @Willk's idea of demigods being aware/in control of the regeneration proces, at least partially, for example they can trigger it or temporarily stop it, and at a higher level of skill even control it entirely)


Could Regenerative Biology Work in Humans?

Mansi Srivastava’s basic research seeks to uncover the origins of whole-body regeneration in animals.

Srivastava hopes to learn how neoblasts persist and reawaken, and why human and other mammalian stem cells are limited in their regenerative capacities.

Courtesy of Mansi Srivastava


Srivastava hopes to learn how neoblasts persist and reawaken, and why human and other mammalian stem cells are limited in their regenerative capacities.

Courtesy of Mansi Srivastava

Chop a three-banded panther worm in half, and the head and tail will swirl around as if nothing had happened. Even more astonishing, a few days later, the halves will grow to become two complete and almost indistinguishable worms.

Loeb associate professor of the natural sciences Mansi Srivastava has studied this process of healing and regeneration for more than a decade. Together with members of her research group, she has been working to uncover the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying whole-body regeneration, and tracing their evolutionary history. Understanding both these aspects of regeneration, she believes, could aid in efforts to develop the field of human regenerative medicine.

Srivastava chose to study the three-banded panther worm because this tiny, carnivorous Bermuda native is especially adept at whole-body regeneration: able to heal and then recreate an entire organism from even a small fragment of its body. Moreover, the species is sufficiently similar to planarians, worms widely studied in the field of regeneration biology, that scientists can make comparisons between the two species, whose last common ancestor lived 550 million years ago. If there are similarities in the molecular mechanisms they use to regenerate, Srivastava explains, identifying and investigating these shared elements could lead to an understanding of the fundamental principles controlling this feat.

An advance in this direction came in 2019 when her research group reported the discovery of a “pioneer factor,” a molecular agent responsible for initiating the cascade of genetic signals necessary for regeneration. In the moments after an injury, she explains, cells around the damaged site sound an alarm by generating proteins that activate the choreography of regeneration. But what intracellular factor causes the genes encoding those proteins to switch on? How does an incomplete animal know what is missing, and how to recreate it? “Who” or what decides how to proceed?

Her team probed these questions using a technique known as ATACseq that allowed them to zoom in on the structure of chromatin—the packaging material of cellular DNA. They focused on regions of the chromatin structure that opened up soon after amputation. These sites marked genes likely activated in response to injury. By analyzing the commonalities among multiple regions of open chromatin across many cells found near the damage site, Srivastava and colleagues were able to identify one such “decision-maker,” or factor responsible for the observed changes in the products of these activated genes. Known as EGR, the protein proved crucial for regeneration: when the researchers turned off its production, many of the genes that should have been switched on weren’t—and the worm never regenerated.

This work provided “a broad look,” Srivastava says, at the early steps following amputation. Her team is currently developing a more detailed picture of these molecular events. To do so, they have applied the same analysis of the chromatin structure to individual cells of the worm. By looking at chromatin changes within single cells, they hope to learn exactly how the process that directs regeneration unfolds.


By tagging a single potentially pluripotent cell (above, at far left) with a red fluorescent protein, researchers can watch as it divides, eventually becoming a complete worm.

Courtesy of Mansi Srivastava

At the same time, Srivastava has turned her attention to the raw material the worms use to regenerate tissues, a form of adult stem cell called a neoblast. In response to amputation, these typically dormant cells “wake up” and undergo rapid bursts of division. A sort of cellular alchemy ensues, she explains: like embryonic stem cells, which are active during development, the neoblasts turn into “neurons, muscles, skin, whatever you need.” This ability to become any cell type, known as pluripotency, is a well-described feature of embryonic stem cells. But panther worms are somehow able to maintain pluripotency of neoblasts into adulthood.

By investigating the cellular origins of the worms’ embryonic and adult pluripotent stem cells, and characterizing the differences and similarities between the two, Srivastava hopes to learn how neoblasts persist and reawaken, and why human and other mammalian stem cells are limited in their regenerative capacities.

Using ultraviolet light to tag cells of interest and follow them during their life cycle, her team has made significant progress toward identifying the cellular lineage that gives rise to stem cells during the worm’s early development. “We now want to use that same approach in adults,” she says, to understand how the worms make and then maintain a neoblast, to “keep it hanging out, happily pluripotent, in its body. I don’t think my work is going to help anyone grow a limb five years from now,” she adds, “but I do think it could lead to an understanding of pluripotency, and how genomes are regulated during regeneration.” That could lead to breakthroughs in the nascent field of human regenerative medicine.


Reproductive System

Some species of planarians reproduce both sexually and asexually. Others reproduce only asexually. The species that can reproduce sexually contain both ovaries and testes and are therefore hermaphrodites. Sperm is exchanged between two animals during mating. The eggs are fertilized internally and are laid in capsules.

In asexual reproduction, the tail end of a planarian separates from the rest of its body. The tail develops a new head and the head end of the animal develops a new tail. As a result, two individuals are produced.


Complete Axolotl Genome Could Reveal the Secret of Regenerating Tissues

When Lake Xochimilco near Mexico City was Lake Texcoco, and the Aztecs founded their island capital city of Tenochtitlan in 1325, a large aquatic salamander thrived in the surrounding lake. The axolotl has deep roots in Aztec religion, as the god Xolotl, for whom the animal is named, was believed to have transformed into an axolotl—although it didn’t stop the Aztecs from enjoying a roasted axolotl from time to time. The custom of eating axolotl continues to this day, although the species has become critically endangered in the wild.

Saving the salamander that Nature called “biology’s beloved amphibian” takes on a special significance given the animal’s remarkable traits. Axolotls are neotenic, meaning the amphibians generally do not fully mature like other species of salamander, instead retaining their gills and living out their lives under water as a kind of juvenile. On rare occasions, or when stimulated in the lab, an axolotl will go through metamorphosis and develop lungs to replace its gills.

Accompanying these unique traits is a remarkably complex genome, with 32 billion base pairs compared to about 3 billion base pairs in human DNA. The axolotl has the largest genome ever fully sequenced, first completed last year by a team of European scientists. The University of Kentucky, which heads axolotl research in the United States, today announced that researchers have added the sequencing of whole chromosomes to the European effort—“about a thousand-fold increase in the length of assembled pieces,” according to Jeremiah Smith, an associate biology professor at the University of Kentucky. Scientists hope to use this new data to harness some of the axolotl’s unique abilities.

The axolotl is a salamander with remarkable capacity for regeneration. It can regrow its tail, limbs, spinal cord—even their brains. (University of Kentucky)

Like other salamanders, axolotls have the ability to completely regenerate an entire limb when lost. “Salamanders have this unique ability to regenerate almost anything you cut off them,” Smith says. Salamanders can even regenerate spinal cords, eyes and parts of their brains.

While the ability to regrow an entire arm is out of reach for humans, studying the axolotl genome could reveal genetic methods of regenerating tissue that could be used in medical research. Smith says that the axolotl’s regeneration capabilities involve the use of stem cells, as well as an unknown method of causing cells at the site of the injury to revert to stem cells.

“Axolotls have been a model species for over 150 years,” Smith says. The sequencing of this genome, the culmination of decades of work for some of the scientists involved, represents a huge milestone as it will allow work to hone in on the specific gene interactions that allow axolotls to regenerate limbs. Smith says his team is now working with the European group to continue to improve and polish the genome assembly.

David Gardiner, a biology professor at the University of California Irvine who has worked with axolotls and studied regeneration for decades, says that the genes that control regeneration aren’t necessarily unique to salamanders.

“Salamanders are not special. It’s not that they have special regeneration genes,” Gardiner says. Though salamanders do regulate their genes differently from other species. The goal is to eventually find a way to signal pathways between genes and activate the ability to regenerate genetic material and ultimately tissue. Such a process could be possible using a type of “smart bandage” that activates certain pathways, or by triggering the process with a gene-editing tool such as CRISPR-Cas9.

However, “you couldn’t do that if you didn’t know what those regions are,” Gardiner says. He says the “herculean effort” by Smith and his colleagues to sequence the genome will help move this process along.

The research is also expected to advance scientists’ understanding of genetics at large. “It’ll take our understanding to the next level,” Gardiner says. When it comes to regeneration, scientists are interested in how some genes can affect and interact with others thousands of base pairs away.

Drs. Jeramiah Smith and Randal Voss at their lab at the University of Kentucky. (University of Kentucky)

Smith and his team have already made use of this new genome map by identifying the gene responsible for causing a heart defect that occurs among axolotls.“They basically don’t develop their hearts properly during early life,” Smith says. The knowledge of the genes responsible for this defect can help scientists understand what may cause some heart problems in humans.

The work also has implications for conservation. While the axolotl may be fairly common in the laboratories of a certain subset of gene scientists, the salamander is actually under a lot of pressure in its singular habitat in the wild. When the Aztec Empire fell to the Spanish, the Europeans converted the indigenous metropolis into Mexico City. The urban area has continued to expand ever since, often at the expense of the wetland habitat that once spread across the Valley of Mexico.

Today, Lake Xochimilco is a shadow of Lake Texcoco. Positioned to the southeast of Mexico City. The area is popular with tourists and weekenders from the city who hire boats in the canal area. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, urban water pollution, commercial development, hunting, climate change and invasive species all threaten the remaining wild axolotl population in the canals of Lake Xochimilco.

Luis Zambrano, a biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico who works with axolotls, says that genome work enhances the importance of the amphibian conservation in the wild.

“Axolotls can survive in tanks, but its variation can be reduced as the population number and origins are constrained,” Zambrano says in an email.“Generic variation of the wild populations [has] become highly important if we want to use this salamander genome as a system able to help human health.”

The Aztecs knew of the axolotl’s regenerative power, and they attributed it to powers imbued by Xolotl. Now, the greatest obstacle to truly understanding the secret of this seemingly divine ability is the threat we pose to the very animal we hope to learn from.


The Future of Regenerative Medicine

Someday, waiting lists for organ transplants will be a thing of the past.

“One day, patients will have access to regenerative medicine treatments that will circumvent the complications of organ donation,” says Sharlini Sankaran, PhD, executive director of Duke’s Regeneration Next Initiative. “We will be able to use our bodies’ own innate repair mechanisms to eliminate the wait time, cost, and limited supply of organ transplantation. Instead of transplanting organs, we will know how to repair our own.”

And this is just one of the possibilities of regenerative medicine, a field with historical reference in the myth of Prometheus and an exciting future unexpectedly linked to the remarkable regenerative capabilities of a small, striped freshwater fish, the zebrafish (Danio rerio). Regenerative medicine seeks to restore organ function without organ donation or transplantation. Instead, scientists attempt to either engineer or regenerate human cells, tissues, or organs—achievements that in the not-too-distant past were more likely to be found in science fiction than in working labs.

The Regeneration Next Initiative, established in 2016, is Duke University’s answer to how to best harness the potential of the rapidly expanding and innately interdisciplinary field. Regeneration Next strives to connect, support, and further the efforts of more than 60 faculty from across the School of Medicine, Pratt School of Engineering, and Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. Duke is the ideal place for this coalescing effort. “All the ingredients are coming together here, under one roof,” says Sankaran. “Our goal is to bring together the very best faculty and trainees doing this exciting work, and facilitate education, discovery, and the translation of research into treatments for patients.”

Several Duke biomedical engineers and scientists have already made startling discoveries in regenerative medicine. Ken Poss, PhD, director of Regeneration Next and the James B. Duke Professor of Cell Biology and professor in medicine, pioneered research on regeneration of cardiac muscle in zebrafish and hopes to identify the pathways in the human heart that could one day lead to similar regrowth of damaged tissue. With close to 70 percent genetic similarity and many of the same major organs and tissues as humans, zebrafish are ideal models for researchers to study the mechanisms underlying the regeneration of the heart, spinal cord, skin, joint tissue, and brain cells, in the hopes of unlocking similar latent processes in humans.

Nenad Bursac, PhD, co-director of Regeneration Next and professor of biomedical engineering, is taking a different approach but with a similar goal in mind: to change the way we treat the leading cause of death in the United States, heart disease. His team has bioengineered cardiac patches consisting of human heart muscle cells. Instead of losing function in an area damaged by a heart attack to scar tissue, an engineered cardiac patch placed over the affected area could one day restore the heart’s ability to fully contract and transmit electrical signals as healthy tissue does.

Complex challenges require multifaceted approaches. The current focus of Regeneration Next is on investing in individuals who are at the forefront of discovery research at various levels and across numerous fields. Attracting talent is a top priority recent faculty appointments include Purushothama Rao Tata, PhD, assistant professor of cell biology, who researches cellular mechanisms of repair and regeneration in lung epithelial tissue. Supporting a collaborative environment among faculty and students from different departments and labs is another. Faculty-led informal gatherings, dubbed “Chalk Talks,” are held monthly for researchers to come together to share ideas and findings that have not yet been published. And Regeneration Next invests heavily in the careers of talented postdoctoral students through fellowships. “Postdoctoral researchers are at a very early point in their careers they have fresh ideas and are willing to take risks,” says Sankaran. “They want to eventually establish their own labs and undertake risky work, and often this type of work can be difficult to fund.”

Regenerative medicine has the potential to radically change the treatment of injury and disease. There may be a day when patients suffering from paralysis regain movement, when a scarred heart reverses course through regeneration, and when a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s no longer means inevitable neurodegeneration. And, as lifespans increase, knee cartilage worn to the bone by decades of function, for example, might be repaired by injecting a regenerative trigger rather than surgical replacement, enhancing mobility and lifestyle for a growing segment of the population.

“We are a ways from bringing these treatments to patients,” says Sankaran, “but Duke’s investments in basic science and in the applications of regenerative medicine are how these ideas will become reality.”


Organ and Limb Regeneration

BAR HARBOR — James Godwin will give a talk about organ regeneration Jan. 14 at 5 p.m. in the Kinne Library at the MDI Biological Laboratory (MDIBL).

The talk, the first in the 2019 MDI Science Café series, is titled “Unlocking the Potential for Repair and Regeneration of Human Limbs, Hearts, Brains and Other Organs.”

“Though the ability to grow a new limb after injury or new heart muscle after a heart attack may seem like science fiction, regenerative biology may be closer than we think to achieving this goal,” event organizers said. “The key may lie with scarring, which appears to function as a barrier to regeneration in humans.”

Godwin, who studies regeneration in salamanders at MDIBL, will talk about how the potential for humans to achieve “salamander-like” regenerative capabilities could transform medicine. He will also discuss some key areas that are under investigation in regenerative biology and the path to the development of clinical therapies to promote scar-free regeneration and repair in humans.

“The salamander can faithfully repair damaged organs or replace a missing body part such as a limb, throughout its life,” Godwin said. “In contrast, humans and mice fail to replace damaged limbs or effectively heal other tissues without scarring, which reduces the ability of organs to function normally and can be fatal to organs such as the heart.”

By studying the advanced wound repair process in salamanders — in particular, a type of Mexican salamander called the axolotl that is nature’s champion of regeneration — Godwin has made significant progress toward understanding the potential barriers to human regeneration and how they may be overcome.

“The extraordinary incidence of death and disability from heart disease, for example, is directly attributable to scarring,” Godwin said. “If humans could get over the scarring hurdle in the same way that salamanders do, the system that blocks regeneration in humans could potentially be broken.”

In addition to regenerating heart tissue following a heart attack, the ability to unlock the dormant capabilities for regeneration in humans through the suppression of scarring has potential applications for the regeneration of tissues and organs lost to traumatic injury, surgery and other diseases, Godwin said.

His reflect the unique research approach at MDIBL, where scientists study regeneration in a diverse range of highly regenerative animal models with the goal of gaining insight into how to trigger dormant genetic pathways for regeneration in humans.

MDI Science Cafés are offered in fulfillment of the laboratory’s mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The events offer a chance to hear directly from speakers about trends in science. Short presentations delivered in everyday language are followed by lively, informal discussion.


The banality of danger

In listening to these talks I was struck by how mundane the sources of these dangers were when it comes to day-to-day life. Unlike nuclear war or some lone terrorist building a super-virus (threats that Sir Martin Rees eloquently spoke of), when it comes to the climate crisis and an emerging surveillance culture, we are collectively doing it to ourselves through our own innocent individual actions. It's not like some alien threat has arrived and will use a mega-laser to drive the Earth's climate into a new and dangerous state. Nope, it's just us — flying around, using plastic bottles, and keeping our houses toasty in the winter. And it's not like soldiers in black body armor arrive at our doors and force us to install a listening device that tracks our activities. Nope, we willingly set them up on the kitchen counter because they are so dang convenient. These threats to our existence or to our freedoms are things that we are doing just by living our lives in the cultural systems we were born into. And it would take considerable effort to untangle ourselves from these systems.

So, what's next then? Are we simply doomed because we can't collectively figure out how to build and live with something different? I don't know. It's possible that we are doomed. But I did find hope in the talk given by the great (and my favorite) science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson. He pointed to how different eras have different "structures of feeling," which is the cognitive and emotional background of an age. Robinson looked at some positive changes that emerged in the wake of the COVID pandemic, including a renewed sense that most of us recognize that we're all in this together. Perhaps, he said, the structure of feeling in our own age is about to change.


Watch the video: Humans Share Genes That Allow Zebrafish to Regenerate Their Eyes (February 2023).