In an highly ambitious goal, a team of scientists explore epimorphic regeneration in humans to regrow arms and legs. Growing digits and limbs with 3D structure and with functionality may be a reality one day according to a team at Tulane and Washington Universities.
Breaking the chains of the biological complexities and their regenerative processes that would allow humans to regrow limbs, along with digits. The authors of the paper, Looking Ahead to Engineering Epimorphic Regeneration of a Human Digit or Limb, published in Tissue Engineering, Part B, Reviews, highlight this “would radically change the prognosis and quality of life for amputees.”
They show that Epimorphic Regeneration happens in certain species such as salamanders which have the ability to regenerate limbs, the tail, and even eye lenses, with a deer their antlers can regenerate.
What Is Epimorphic Regeneration?
In amphibians, after limb loss, the amputation area heals forming an epidermal layer. The tissues underneath experience a process of matrix remodeling. A blastema (heterogeneous cell mass) starts to form coming from the proliferation and migration of the adjacent cells.
These dedifferential cells in the regeneration bud or blastema finally redifferentiate to form new tissues that are configured to reconstruct the original limb. The process of amphibian epimorphic regeneration can offer hints for humans.
Epimorphic Regeneration In Humans
In some cases of children and adults who have had the tips of digits lost, they can regenerate, providing certain conditions are present. One condition is that some of the nail bed remains.
According to physicians whom specialize in digit regeneration research, with infants and very young children if the injury is left well alone. Along without further removing of the bone and no any stitching of the wound, then the finger tip may very well grow back, assuming not too much of the nail bed is lost. For further information on this you can refer to Dr. Christopher H. Allan, MD, where he highlights this in one of his presentations.
Epimorphic regeneration has specific steps that promote the partial or complete restoration of a digit or a limb after amputation.
The highly ambitious pursuit of obtaining epimorphic regeneration in humans, requires the regrowth of multiple tissues. These would then need to be assembled in the right sequence and patterns to regrow a fully functional limb.
This fascinating subject requires the combination of the latest advances in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. Examining the comprehensive research that is already out there in published reports of the potential of human regeneration, with the process of human digit healing.
A detailed look at the mechanisms of epimorphic regeneration, in non-mammalian creatures and also some mammalian models of regeneration is examined, including the tip of a mouse. These models can be observed in comparing regeneration tissues that are suitable and what is not competent in the same animal.
The scientists have observed that similar to skin grafts put across the injury site, it might be possible to suture an engineered epithelial layer. A further in-depth understanding “…of the proper soluble factor communication necessary, however, could lead to a more direct approach of the delivering growth factors to the region, leveraging drug delivery paradigms that create spatiotemporal gradients.”
These medical interventions are designed to replicate the code signals that initiate a stable cell mass that would operate as a blastema, which is a mass of cells capable of growth and regeneration into body parts.
Research so far done into mice have revealed that compelling insight of implementing “solubilized extra-cellular matrices, bone morphogenetic proteins and matrix metalloprotienases, generated by immune cells, in promoting recruitment/mobilization of endogenous cells to proliferate at the transected bone front.”
In addition, how the injury responds can be influenced with external bioreactors. This can be used to control parameters that would involve hydration, oxygen concentration, electrical stimulation and pH.
According to John P. Fisher, PhD, who is Professor and Associate Chair Fischell Department of Bioengineering, University of Maryland, stated:
“There is a critical need to develop engineered tissues with complex physiologies, such as a complete limb, and the paper by Quijano and colleagues identifies some of the key components required for these developments.”
The above paper ‘Tissue Engineering, Part B, Reviews’ is available for download until March 08, 2016.
One of the scientists involved with this research was Dr Stephen Badylak of the McCowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine.
I wrote an article about some of his research into Extracellular Matrix that is in abundance from Pig’s Bladder. That is being used for the regeneration of lost finger tips where some of the nail bed is still present, along with a variety of other treatments such as limb salvaging techniques and medical scaffolding.
So things are progressing along and I expect to see some new potential treatments for those whom have lost digits in the near future. Certainly it cannot happen soon enough for those whom have life changing injuries but I would not be writing and developing this blog if amazing new potential treatments were never going to materialize.
This kind of research is not only going to benefit humans whom have lost limbs but also for humanity in longevity and for people needing organ replacements.
I have read scientist saying that the creation of a new heart based on one’s own stem cells, would be 50 years or decades away, but now it may be as little as 10 years.
The future is indeed looking bright and we should all be looking forward to the 2020s as a bright new future.
What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear your opinions and reflections on this research.