Saturday, November 18, 2006
Chop off a salamander's leg and a brand new one will sprout in no time. But most animals have lost the ability to replace missing limbs. Now, a research team at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has been able to regenerate a wing in a chick embryo - a species not known to be able to regrow limbs - suggesting that the potential for such regeneration exists innately in all vertebrates, including humans.
Their study, published in the advance online edition of the journal Genes and Development on November 17, demonstrates that vertebrate regeneration is under the control of the powerful Wnt signaling system: Activating it overcomes the mysterious barrier to regeneration in animals like chicks that can't normally replace missing limbs while inactivating it in animals known to be able to regenerate their limbs (frogs, zebrafish, and salamanders) shuts down their ability to replace missing legs and tails.
'In this simple experiment, we removed part of the chick embryo's wing, activated Wnt signaling, and got the whole limb back - a beautiful and perfect wing,' said the lead author, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte (homepage), Ph.D., a professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory. 'By changing the expression of a few genes, you can change the ability of a vertebrate to regenerate their limbs, rebuilding blood vessels, bone, muscles, and skin - everything that is needed.'
This new discovery 'opens up an entirely new area of research,' Belmonte says. 'Even though certain animals have lost their ability to regenerate limbs during evolution, conserved genetic machinery may still be present, and can be put to work again,' he said.
Continued at "Regeneration: Scientist regrow chicken wing" [Wingless, Science]
Based on the Genes and Development paper "Wnt/beta-catenin signaling regulates vertebrate limb regeneration":
The cellular and molecular bases allowing tissue regeneration are not well understood. By performing gain- and loss-of-function experiments of specific members of the Wnt pathway during appendage regeneration, we demonstrate that this pathway is not only necessary for regeneration to occur, but it is also able to promote regeneration in axolotl, Xenopus, and zebrafish. Furthermore, we show that changes in the spatiotemporal distribution of beta-catenin in the developing chick embryo elicit apical ectodermal ridge and limb regeneration in an organism previously thought not to regenerate. Our studies may provide valuable insights toward a better understanding of adult tissue regeneration.
Also see "Birds that make teeth (Press Release + Summary)":
Gone does not necessarily mean forgotten, especially in biology. A recent finding by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and colleagues from the University of Manchester have found new evidence that the ability to form previously lost organs - in this case, teeth - can be maintained millions of years after the last known ancestor possessed them.
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