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July 15, 2009

Learning Limb Regeneration From Salamanders

Back in high school, a friend of mine gave a presentation in an advanced biology class we had together about the potential to regenerate human limbs by learning about salamanders, which he also tied to how humans could eventually take-on the power of some superheroes.

Well, it looks like researchers are starting to make some important progress on learning about how salamanders are able to completely regenerate parts of their bodies, including limbs, jaws, skin, organs, and parts of their brains and spinal chords.  Imagine if humans had this type of power?  The Department of Defense certainly wants us to, so that amputees from war are able to regenerate their limbs and live a normal life, and has given a $6.25 million research grant to scientists studying the creature.

So where is the state of science on the salamander at?  Currently, scientists in Germany have genetically engineered a version by adding a green-glowing gene from a jellyfish to a wild mutant without skin pigment, so they are able to track the fluorescent proteins as the limbs regenerate.

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