Scientists have done a compelling research project, revealing how they have accomplished partial toe regeneration in mice using two proteins. This has involved successfully regenerating joints along with the tissue of bones with mice who had lost or damaged toes.
The researchers feel this study shows powerful promise for applying limb regeneration on humans and amputees one day.
The team at Texas A & M University were successful in stimulating growth artificially in amputated and/or injured toes of neonatal mice. This was done using a pair of proteins called BMP-2 and BMP-9.
The joints in the limbs of humans and animals are very complex structurally. This is the case even for creatures in the wild who are able to regenerate their lost limbs but may not have the ability to regrow the joints.
In the past, Ken Muneoka from the University in Texas along with his colleagues were able to regenerate bones in mice after the toes had been removed. This was achieved using the bone growth protein BMP-2, however, the structures at the joints would never develop.
If you want correct limb regeneration then these joint structures need to be regenerated as well.
So the scientists observed that there must be another protein that plays a role in bone regeneration. They wondered if BMP-9 could be the one that is key to developing joints in the limbs.
The team decided to apply the BMP-9 protein to mice after their toes were amputated. The result after three days later showed 60% of the bone stumps had gone on to develop a layer of joint and cartilage tissue.
The experiment showed that regeneration was more effective if the injury was treated with the BMP-2 protein and followed with the BMP-9 a week later.
This is significant as it was not just the case of the bones regrowing but in addition the formation of complete joint structures. Part of the bone that was regrown has the new cartilage structures attached to the partially developed toe.
Applying To Humans
According to the paper that is published in Nature Communication on this work, the scientists explain:
“These studies provide evidence that treatment of growth factors can be used to engineer a regeneration response from a non-regenerating amputation wound…”
The scientist Ken Muneoka involved in this research suggests this work proves even if mammals are not able to regenerate lost or damaged body parts, including us humans, we actually do possess cells that have the knowledge on how to regenerate.
He told New Scientist magazine,
“They can do it, they just don’t do it. So, we have to figure out what’s constraining them…”
What is important to understand here is that the skeleton structure in humans is very close in similarity to that of the mouse species. Therefore, the researchers are hopeful that in the future, and perhaps sooner than we think, we will be in a better position to help amputees regrow their lost limbs and give surgeons better options to rebuild damaged ones.
The scientists on this project point out that further research and understanding needs to be worked on before we can start addressing and implementing any kind of human trails for amputees.
I wrote a previous article back in 2015, on how can stem cells regrow limbs with fingernails. This was about scientists working on mouse digit regeneration and understanding stem cells located in the base of the fingernail in their role of regeneration.
However, the work discussed here goes beyond the first digit and is making transformational research on how to regrow a whole toe of the mouse.
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