X-Message-Number: 16215
From: "Jan Coetzee" <>
Subject: Gene find will help us to regrow limbs and organs
Date: Sun, 6 May 2001 18:37:50 -0400

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Gene find will help us to regrow limbs 

Humans could one day grow limbs lost in accidents or regenerate organs destroyed
by illness 

The prospect has been raised by geneticists who have revealed the biological 
secret of creatures that can replace limbs that have been severed in fights or 
attacks by predators. 

This ability - possessed by creatures such as salamanders, which can regenerate 
legs, and various species of lizards, which can regrow tails - has baffled 
scientists for centuries. But now researchers have discovered the process is 
controlled by a genetic signal switched on in cells of amphibians but turned off
in mammals. 

"The presence of this activated gene in amphibians allows them to regrow legs," 
says Professor Juan Belmonte, of the gene expression laboratory at the Salk 
Institute in California. "More importantly, its absence explains why higher 
vertebrate creatures like ourselves cannot regenerate lost limbs. That awareness
in turn raises the prospect that we could one day intervene and switch on this 
gene. In other words, we could regrow lost organs." 

The ability to reverse amputation operations would have a huge medical bonus. 
However, scientists believe the technique is likely to be of even greater 
benefit when used to regenerate organs - such as the heart or the liver - that 
have been destroyed by disease. 


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