Body Parts Regeneration: Humans May Regrow Amputated Parts

By Rodney Rafols , Nov 29, 2016 10:30 AM EST

People have always wondered if body parts could be regenerated. The human body has a limited capability to regenerate itself, though it cannot fully replace lost body parts. For body parts regeneration, humans may regrow amputated parts someday.

The key in the study of humans being able to grow body parts is hinged on a worm. Researchers are studying one type of worm, called the acorn worm, to see if it could be possible to grow human body parts.

The acorn worm might be small, but its ancestry can be traced to chordates. In a sense, the acorn worm has a genetic map that is almost similar to humans. It has been shown that acorn worms can grow all of its body parts even if it has been sliced into pieces.

This is now the mechanism that is being studied by Shawn Luttrell, the study's lead author and a Biology doctoral student at the University of Washington. He has observed that the acorn worm share thousands of genes with humans. In essence, then humans could have the same genes that give the acorn worm the ability to regenerate. Now he is studying the mechanism that gives the acorn worm the ability to regenerate.

The acorn worm can regrow its head or tail part if it is cut in half, according to UW Today. After three to four days, the worm's proboscis and mouth are formed. In 10 days it has a new heart and kidneys. Cutting it to pieces would soon produce small acorn worms from the cut pieces.

Senior author and director of Friday Harbor Laboratories as well as University of Washington Biology Professor Billie Swalla said regeneration gives animals immortality. He said that the animal regrows itself in the same way that soon it would have an exact duplicate, as Science Daily reports.

Research has focused on the gene expression patterns of the acorn worm, as it has been noted that there is a master control which gives the worm the ability to regrow itself in the same way. Its gene pattern could someday be applied to human body parts. This will allow body parts to be grown in exactly the same way. Swalla said that humans might have the ability to regenerate, but something is hindering that process from happening.

It could be that the immune system is hindering it, as it would try to heal wounds by forming scar tissue over it. It is also speculated that a human is much larger, which would cost much more energy to regenerate parts. The researchers are trying to look into the cells the acorn worm is using to regenerate.

The study of body parts regeneration is exciting, as humans may regrow amputated parts someday. It might even help prolong life, as in the case of parts that are damaged by diseases such as the heart or kidney could be regrown. Also being studied are cells that could someday fight cancer.

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