In this article we will explore how can humans regenerate body parts using an area of research known as bioelectricity. Also along with this line of inquiry we will discuss what research scientists have done in bioelectricity as a solution to human regeneration.
A lot of research has gone into genetic and stem cell regeneration but bioelectricity has taken a back seat and has not been considered a credible area of research. However, recently some scientists are investigating this more deeply and how it can help in provide real answers to regrowing body parts including the regeneration of lost arms and legs.
The first time I heard about the possibility of humans regrowing limbs, is in reading about the existence of the etheric body. This was in a book about Out Of Body Experiences and how the authors discussed the existence of this electromagnetic cape that surrounded and interpenetrated the body. Outlining how it can separate from the physical during sleep and in deep meditative states, allowing the consciousness of the person to go on an out of body trip.
It was here that I first came across the research of Dr. Robert O. Becker, whom was scientifically studying the concept of electricity and electromagnetism as part of the make up of the human system. This scientist was an orthopedic surgeon whom advocated and did intense research that electrotherapy can stimulate bone regrowth and tissue regeneration.
Dr Robert O. Becker’s Initial Research
Becker’s original work observed the phenomena known as the “current of injury.” This is the electrical potential that can be measurement of an amputated stump in an animal. When surgically removing a limb from an animal in the lab, he could measure the changes of the electrical patterns at the stump over several days as it went through healing and repair.
In studying the complex regeneration of tissues, Becker was able to identify the repair mechanisms between salamanders and frogs during healing of injuries. Frogs and Salamanders are in the evolutionary genetic stage part, however, salamanders can regrow limbs while frogs are not able to do so.
This shows that frogs have lost the ability to regenerate during the evolutionary process on their genetic journey in the amphibian family tree. The scientist was keen in looking at the electrical changes during the ‘current of injury’ with the stumps of salamanders that could regrow their legs and with frogs who could not.
So Becker would amputate the limbs of salamanders and frogs. He would use electrodes to measure the electrical potential at the point of healing. The frogs would show a positive electrical potential that would eventually drift to a zero or neutral potential as the stump healed over. I created the following diagram to highlight this explanation.
In the case of the salamander, the electrical potential at the stump would be the same like the frog initially. However, this positive polarity, would then switch to a negative vibration during the course of healing. This electrical negative potential would then drift to a zero or neutral point during a period of days, as the salamander grow back a new leg.
So the only real difference in these measurements was that the salamander had a swing of positive to negative potential during limb regeneration. Becker wondered what would happen if artificially inducing a negative electrical potential at the frog’s healing stump would change the outcome of repair.
To Becker’s amazement when he applied this the frog’s amputated stump regrew a new leg!
The Electric Body
This is only a partial glimpse of Robert O. Becker’s research and the reader is highly recommend to read up his significant findings in his book The Electric Body. This book covers 30 years of his research and study of what causes limb regeneration with some species.
Looking at his research I would say the electric body is the reason that amputee’s experience what is know as the ‘phantom limb’ where they still experience the missing body part as still being there after it is lost. It is not an illusion. It is because on the etheric level the body part is still there until the electric body adapts to the new situation. Thus the so-called ‘phantom limb’ experience disappears.
We can photograph this electric body today with Kirlian Photography (invented by a Russian scientist) the can image these energy fields. This has been done with plants where the limb of the plant has been lost, yet the energetic level of the limb is still there.
Unfortunately Becker’s research was largely ignored and shunned by the Scientific Establishment Bureaucracies and ignorant scientists. Along with the battle with the scientific community at large that he and is colleges had to deal with since their research went largely unfunded.
The research in ‘The Electric Body’ was a result of going public with Becker’s findings as he was unable to get his research published and accepted in Scientific papers. His research was published at a time before Stem Cell research became popular and perhaps some aspects of his research is superseded by more recent research. However, his work is clearly ahead of his time in understanding bioelectricity and regeneration.
Becker’s points to the day of organ, spinal cord and limb regeneration. He argues that Electricity is vital to life and an important ingredient in the healing process of all life forms. Becker also gave warnings of electromagnetic pollution (radiation) that we are now experiencing with the mobile (cellular) phones and wireless technologies. This is now becoming of a great concern with increasing number of scientists and the health related issues.
The good news is that more scientists in the field of regeneration are now more sympathetic to research like Becker and how bio-electricity is an important part of the jigsaw in understanding human regeneration.
One such scientist is Michael Levin, whom is the director of Tufts University’s Center for Regeneration and Developmental Biology in Medford near Boston. He believes that bioelectricity will help us find important clues in understanding the regeneration process and he feels that limb regeneration will happen in our lifetimes.
Levin’s research is perhaps little known in the wider community may be due to the fact that most pioneers in regeneration feel that the answers are in genetics and stem cells. Of course such research has led to amazing discoveries and achievements already. Including wind pipes, new bladders, regrowing of finger digits and soon trials will be underway for blood regeneration based on patient’s stem cells.
The later being a powerful solution to blood donor shortages. Plus let us not forget that eventually a patient can have a new organ replacement such as a kidneys regrown in the lab based on the patient’s own stem cells.
Is this all a pipe dream? But why?
- If tadpoles can regrow lost tails;
- If a decapitated flatworm can regrow a new head;
- A lizard can escape its predator by shedding its tail;
- If the axolotl Mexican salamander can regenerate everything from regrowing new limbs, its spinal cord, and even parts of its brain, all without any evidence of scarring.
Then as scientists leading this field of study say, why can’t humans? Even some mammals have the ability to regenerate, such as a reindeer can regrow their shedded antlers. Interestingly, in some cases rats can grow back a new leg that was lost.
Humans do have some regenerative abilities also. For example, young children whom have a slice of their finger tip lost, that finger tip will grow back. This ability in children starts to disappear around the age of 12 and beyond. Medical intervention would be required for adults and now developments with extracellular matrix technologies can now stimulate partial or full regrowth in an adult if the tip of the finger is lost.
However, regenerating a small body part is one thing, but if you want to regrow back a whole lost limb? Perhaps there is a way to regenerate damaged retinal tissues. Or regrow an entire eye?
Well my friends there is a good news on the horizon! Scientists like Michael Levin feel this is where we are heading and does not think this is just science fiction and outlandish fantasy. In fact Levin reflects he may be on the verge of a breakthrough to do just that.
He proposes that the key to regeneration, in helping to unlock the hidden codes, is to be found in the electrical signals that are transmitted among our cells. This is very much like a computer matrix program or a sequencing of binary codes of 1s and 0s stored on a computer hard drive.
In manipulating these signalling pathways he has been able to produce results of four-headed flatworms. Continuing with experiments down the line he could make regeneration in humans a reality.
The Electrical Web Of Life
Michael Liven whom is a Russian scientist born in Moscow, heavily researched Dr Robert O. Becker’s work The Electric Body in his early days and traced down all the papers and findings that the book referenced and documented. The end result was an extensive bibliography study into bioelectricity allowing Levin to have a solid background of the methods and ideas proposed by the handful of open minded scientists that continued this field of study in the 1970s and 80s.
It is strange that electricity has been so badly neglected, because it is the essence of life. You will find it everywhere in our bodies, with ions flowing in and out of our cells. You will see electrical pulses flowing down our nerves. The truth is we are walking talking electric circuit boards.
The significance of electricity is well acknowledged when it comes to our nervous system and the heart processes. However, many scientists still today see this body of research as Frankenstein mind set.
For bioelectricity to be seriously revived into the mainstream (and it is heading there now) would require those whom have a vision and forward thinking, not concerned how their passions would appear to others in their field. In other words, taking a few risks, stick out of the box and not follow convention!
Research at the Levin Lab
At the department of biology in the Levin Lab where Michael Levin and his team, at the Tufts University, we will explore some of their observations in limb regeneration.
Regrowing Body Parts
There are a number of species that can regrow lost limbs, such as the Mexican Axolotl and the lizard can shed its tail when being attacked by a predator. When this happens and it escapes the lizard will regrow its tail again.
Insects like cockroaches, have the remarkable ability to regenerate their legs just like the starfish and lobsters. The Zebrafish can regrow their fins if lost and they can also regenerate their hearts. A deer will regrow its antlers with large amounts of bone, nerve and skin each year.
Regenerating The Same As The Lost Part
Species that can master regeneration do not always regrow with perfection. The salamander is the jewel in the crown that can always regrow a limb with complete perfection every time.
The tadpole however, can regenerate their tails well but with a few missing nerve types. The ultimate heroes that gives the Newt and the Axolotl a serious run for their money in the regeneration competition of perfection would be the Planaria Flatworm.
Scientists have studied them and they can regenerate with complete perfection, they can regrow any part of the body including their head. In a recent article I wrote up about the weird world of the planarian worm, they can regrow their heads while still retaining their memories prior to decapitation!
Regrowing Legs in Young Frogs
Several years ago the Levin Lab were studying the bioelectrical signals that change in the distribution of the cellular resting potentials within a tissue or organ, which allows young tadpoles to regenerate their tails.
The team discovered that two essential components on the surface of the cells at the wound were required to configure a bioelectric state, stimulating regeneration.
A Proton Pump, this pumps hydrogen ions out of the cell surface. A specific Sodium Channel, that allows sodium ions to flow across the cellular membrane.
This bioelectrical state was an important part of the process to allow cells to multiply up to a point where it was enough to rebuild the structure. Along with allowing genes that are important for the regeneration process to be enabled. Allowing the nerves to develop down the correct path of the new growth.
Limb Regeneration in Older Frogs
The work that Levin’s team is doing is to initiate a ‘leg building module.’ Over the past 10 years their research has shown that such modules are encoded in a matrix of cellular resting potentials over the body’s tissues. It is this pattern that holds and determines the encoded data of which organs and tissues are made and their location.
The team first used gene therapy to allow a proton pump build from yeast, which would trigger the regeneration bioelectric state in older tadpoles. Older tadpoles cannot normally regrow their tails. So this method forced the regrowth of tails, complete with the spinal cord.
A medical cocktail of drugs was created that stimulated the same state with gene therapy. Now when they gave the same set of drugs to froglets, they got fascinating results, with the regrowth of hind legs.
Can this be Applied to Humans?
According to Michael Levin’s research the answer is yes. However, there are a number of factors surrounding this research that needed to be addressed and understood first.
Similar animals along with humans share most cellular biology pathways. This includes the pattern formation mechanisms, which is the basic step by step processes, required to regenerate complex body parts such as the heart.
The most fundamental and essential mechanisms of bioelectricity is likely to be similar to.
It was back in 1843 when the physiologist Emil du Bois-Reymond first used a galvanometer to measure currents in human skin and wounds. Since then they have been used for hundreds of experiments on animals by scientists.
Levin’s team points out that these currents play an important role in healing.
In important collaboration work with other scientists that Dr. Levin works with at Tufts University. It was discovered that the resting potentials across the cell’s surface can control how they can differentiate into other types of cells.
However, the real power of this approach is not in how single cells are controlled, but an insight into how bioelectric communications among large groupings of cells, are directing the growth of complex structures.
What is needed for Humans Regrowing Lost Limbs?
There are two things needed.
- Hacking the bioelectric matrix binary code, which will allow scientists to understand the mapping of bioelectrical patterns into the development of specific organs. The goal is now to figure out these patterns that are encoded with the instructions of ‘making a limb’ signals.
- A potential delivery vehicle is needed that will impose the right bioelectric states on the cells in the wound or injury. So the road map ahead, that would eventually allow regrowing of lost limbs in humans is to figure out the correct signaling and then imposing the right delivery vehicle.
A delivery vehicle would be a wearable bioreactor that creates an aqueous environment like amniotic fluid. Thus allowing appropriate ion currents allowing the injury to be stimulated into regeneration.
In perfecting the signaling then that should someday allow this to be used in serious limb injuries, likely starting with regrowing fingers, toes, hands and feet.
Other Scientists Working In This Area
There are very few scientists working in this area of bioelectrical research for human regeneration but this will likely change. One particular group of scientists in Scotland have been working with bioelectrical systems in limb regeneration research.
Dr Ann Rajnicek at Aberdeen University points out that the importance of the role of electricity of regeneration and tissue repair has been greatly overlooked by researchers. She and her team have been demonstrating the effects electricity has with flatworms.
She also points out that if you try to sell the idea of the importance of electricity for research into regeneration then you get a cool response from funding agencies.
Most of the those approval organizations providing the funding, want to stay away from bioelectricity in fear of “pseudo” science and feel the answers lay in biochemical mechanisms.
I will likely do a separate article in the future about Dr Rajnicek’s research and other scientists like her.
What are your thoughts on this article? Are you a Scientist? Do you agree with this area of research and is it something that deserves bigger focus and recognition in the pursuit of science?
Leave your comments below. I love to hear from you.