The quest for the ability to grow back organs and limbs, the “holy grail” of regenerative medicine, took a giant leap forward recently. Physorg.com reported Tuesday that researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies recently identified an essential cellular pathway that unlocks certain gene expression patterns that are last seen in humans only during embryonic development. The source of this amazing new discovery? The zebrafish, a cousin to the minnow that is often found in aquariums.
Izpisúa Belmonte, a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory, was quoted as saying, “Our experiments show that normal development and limb regeneration are controlled by similar mechanisms. This finding will help us to ask more specific questions about mammalian limb regeneration: Are the same genes involved when we amputate a mammalian limb? If not, what would happen if we turned them on? And if we can affect these methylation marks in an amputated limb, what effect would that have?”
The institute’s findings on the subject are to be published in an upcoming issue of “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences“, a biweekly multidisciplinary journal that covers the biological, physical, and social sciences.