Gene switch discovery may help humans regrow body parts

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London, Mar 16 (ANI): Scientists have discovered a gene which they claim could help make regrowing amputated limbs, broken backs and even damaged brains a reality.

The gene p21, researchers claim, appears to block the healing power enjoyed by some creatures including amphibians but lost through evolution to all other animals.

By turning off p21, the process can be miraculously switched back on, the academics from The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia said.

In their study, they found that mice lacking the p21 gene gain the ability to regenerate lost or damaged tissue.

Unlike mammals, which heal wounds by forming a scar, these mice begin by forming a blastema, a structure associated with rapid cell growth.

As per the researchers, the loss of p21 causes the cells of these mice to behave more like regenerating embryonic stem cells rather than adult mammalian cells. This means they act as if they creating rather thane mending the body.

Their findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provide solid evidence to link tissue regeneration to the control of cell division, reports The Telegraph.

Professor Ellen Heber-Katz, the lead scientist, said: "Much like a newt that has lost a limb, these mice will replace missing or damaged tissue with healthy tissue that lacks any sign of scarring.

"While we are just beginning to understand the repercussions of these findings, perhaps, one day we'll be able to accelerate healing in humans by temporarily inactivating the p21 gene.

"In normal cells, p21 acts like a brake to block cell cycle progression in the event of DNA damage, preventing the cells from dividing and potentially becoming cancerous.

"We propose that any future therapy would involve turning off p21 transiently during the healing process and only locally at the wound site. This might be done through locally applied drugs.This should minimise any side effects." (ANI)

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