In this article we look at research with planarian worm regeneration and how it could lead to soon regrowing lost limbs in humans. We also will look at non-regenerative worms and also the concept of the body being a hologram.
Scientists have made some highly significant discoveries with studying the planarian flat worm. This could give them a greater insights and providing innovative technologies for boosting human regeneration.
Firstly we will give some background of the remarkable planarian flat worm and its special regenerative gifts that it has. Then we will look at the work that scientists have done recently and how this can be applied to human medicine.
Our Current Regenerative Abilities
Human regeneration is limited. If we lose an arm or leg then it is gone for good. We cannot even regrow a finger or toe. However, some other species in nature can have remarkable regenerative feats.
The Axolotl can not only regrow a new limb if it is lost, but can also regenerate a new damaged spine, even parts of its brain can be regenerate. Same goes for the starfish, lobsters and a large number of other animals.
Recently the discovery of the Spiny African Mouse has shown to have remarkable regeneration abilities. Also I was amazed to learn that snails can regrow their heads! I will let you ponder what the world would be like if humans could do that. 🙂
While we humans cannot regrow new body parts, we are not without regenerative gifts of our own. Depending on the severity of the condition and our own health, we can heal our wounds and surgeries. We also recreate new skin, new blood cells and new linings for intestines, the stomach and lungs.
In fact all our cells are replaced every 7 years. Which comes to think who are we really? Since if we are a new ‘copy’ every seven years then perhaps we are not the ‘original person’ than when we were, coming out of our mother’s womb. You could say we are almost like a clone every 7 years?
Our liver up to a point, can regenerate if it has been damaged. Liver donors can offer up to half of their organ and regrow the missing part of the liver. Impressive!
The Planarian Flatworm – Ain’t She Beautiful!
If I remember correctly, in our biology class at high school, we studied the planaria and its regenerative abilities. Planaria are tiny flatworms that exist in freshwater lakes and marine environments. They also exist on plants around the planet.
What is interesting to say the least, if you cut a one up into hundreds of pieces, each one of those parts will grow back into a whole planarian. A neat trick!
It is because of this that I will discuss why the physical world is a hologram, where every single part of the hologram is a smaller part of the greater collective whole. We will discuss this in depth later.
Before we continue…
I wanted to go over a few terminologies with you. To make sure that any terms used are understood.
- Unidirectional Regeneration – Many different species show some form of regeneration but most of them are limited to the sort of capabilities that the lizard can do. The lizard can regenerate its own tale that was lost. Cockroaches can regrow their limb but the limb itself cannot morph into a new cockroach. This is what scientists mean with the term unidirectional regeneration.
- Bidirectional Regeneration – There are some creatures that have simple body structures. Such as the anemones, hydras and sea stars. They have what is known as bidirectional regeneration. This means that they can regenerate in both directions. If you take a hydra and cut it in half, then you will get two of them. They will not die. If you continue to cut up the hydra into four pieces then they will transform into 4 living hydra.
Planarian Regeneration Magic and Immortality…
Bidirectional regeneration is really amazing, but not even this can compete with the Planaria, living a mundane existence in a pond but with amazing scientific secrets to be discovered.
I have heard that some species never die of old age and only cease to be due to circumstance. Perhaps planarians are one of these? Like other bidirectionally regenerating animals, planarians can use their amazing regenerative powers to reproduce asexually.
In effect they have the ability to clone themselves.
One planarian flatworm and its genome can be created over and over, giving it a sort of immortality.
No one really knows how old the planaria really is.
Recent discoveries by scientists have observed that planaria are full of cells similar to stem cells. Thus these cells are ready at anytime to transform into whatever cell type the planarian worm needs to regenerate lost tissue.
The capability of these cells to become whatever tissue the body needs to regenerate is similar to the capacity of embryonic stem cells in humans. Due to this the planarian flatworm is considered to be one of the favorite study subjects by scientists. With their simple bodies and few tissues types makes them less complex to research.
Thomas Hunt Morgan
It was the late 1800s that the researcher Thomas Hunt Morgan, began his study into inheritance with researching into regeneration with the planaria.
Morgan is known for his field of giving us fruit fly genetics. He started looking at the planarian flatworm in an attempt to answer some questions on the theory of inheritance that was put forward by a German biologist, August Weissman.
Weissan put forward a theory called the germ plasm which
proposed that each individual cell inherits only what building material it needs in order to become a certain kind of cell. So that skin cells would only contain the building blocks for the skin.
If this was true, Morgan argued, then regeneration is not possible as a planarian worm without a head could not develop a brain.
Over a century later and we now have greater knowledge and see things differently. Cells in an organism inherit the same genetic material, and that stem cells drive the regeneration process.
These facts were not know to people like Morgan back in the 1890s, thus regeneration continued to puzzle Morgan. He then turned his attention to fruit flies that he is famous for.
That is not to say that his research into the planarian is not valid. He showed that he could cut the flatworm up into a maximum of 279 pieces and each one would grow into a new planarian worm.
The Planarian Split Personality
Planarian worms have the ability to regenerate remarkably quickly. Not only can the flatworm be cut up into little parts but each one can regenerate into a new worm. In as little as two weeks the smaller parts will have become a new flatworm.
They also have a clever trick, while regenerating. If you are just a tail then how can you possible grow a new head? Or perhaps a head with no intestines? The answer is that the planaria feeds of themselves. If the part being regenerated is just the head for example, then the cells in the tail will start to self-destruct, providing the creature regenerating the energy needed to survive.
As the process continues the tail or body part will shrink to a level that exactly matches that of the head it is regenerating. Once whole again, it will begin to feed and grow back to the original size. How it does this with all the readjustments needed during the process is one of the things that scientists are trying to figure out.
You are a Hologram
I like to switch gears for a moment and discuss with you something that may seem totally unrelated, but you will see where I am coming from, even if a little crazy. I have been researching for over 20 years that the universe is actually a hologram. It was about the mid 1990s when I first came across the concept and at the time I was completely puzzled and it was an idea that seemed a bit obscure.
I came across a book called The Holographic Universe by the late and great researcher Michael Talbot, around 1995 when I was at University studying for my Masters. Back then most scientists apart from the most open minded ones did not take this concept seriously.
However, there are two things I have learned about life.
- What is science fiction today is always but always science fact tomorrow.
- What is perceived as on the fringes of society and main stream research with dismissal, usually ends up being the cutting edge. Period!
First they will laugh at you, then they will condemn you, and then they will say you were right all along.
I first heard about the idea that we might be living in a hologram going mainstream over 10 years ago when New Scientist magazine reported this. They used the headline, You are a Hologram projected from the edge of the universe.
Now recently, scientists have been put forwarding stronger scientific evidence, with research done that shows that we do indeed live inside a giant hologram and possibly a virtual-reality computer simulation. Similar to The Matrix movies.
I would go further and say that we also live in an electric universe. But I will discuss that another time when I talk about bio-electricity and limb regeneration.
What does this have to do with planarian regeneration? Well the basics of any hologram is that the smaller part makes up the whole. So if you take a holographic image of an apple, you then cut that holographic print up into smaller pieces. If you then shine a laser onto that holographic print of the smaller piece it will still show the WHOLE information and image of the original apple and not just a small part.
Further more, if you take that smaller piece and cut it up again into even smaller items. It will still contain the whole information of the apple. This is because every aspect of a hologram also contains the whole image.
What I am suggesting is that the body is a hologram and therefore it makes sense why the smaller part such as the DNA and a cell contain the whole information to build the body.
What does this have to do with planarian regeneration?
Well since the planaria can be cut up into smaller pieces and each of those pieces can then regenerate into the new planarian flatworm, the answer to this lies in the study of the body being a hologram. The smaller parts hold the greater parts of the whole.
This is what alternative healing methods are really about when they focus on a certain part of the body to heal, using acupuncture as an example. While perhaps unknown to the practitioners of these methods, it is in truth using holographic principles.
I will leave this debate here for the time being and will bring it up in a future article when I write about bio-electricity for human regeneration.
Could we soon regrow lost limbs?
In latest research by scientists, humans could one day regrow lost limbs, after a team at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics in Dresden, discovered a molecular switch that controls the passing of information between cells. Resulting in a non-regenerative worm regrowing its head.
A particular type of flatworm known as the Dendrocoelum lacteum flatworm, has a particular type of molecular switch and when this was disabled then the worm could regrow its head. Previously it was not able to do so.
Scientists also discovered that the planaria can not only regrow head and tails but each of those regenerated new parts will hold the original memories of the decapitated one. This means that the brains of the new regenerated worm of the cut up part will contain the same memories of the original part it was separated from. So if the tail of the worm is cut off, when it regrows into a new worm, it will hold the original memories in its new brain once the regeneration process of the new worm is complete.
The scientists proved this by training the flatworms to ignore bright lights so they could find their food without being distracted. They found that even after decapitation the regenerated worms still remembered their training.
The lead researcher, Dr Jochen Rink, says “The rabbit can’t do it, neither can a frog, but a zebrafish and axolotls can and flatworms are true masters of the craft.”
He continues, “Why some of the animals can re-grow lost body parts or organs while others cannot remain a big mystery.”
However, by understanding how to activate this ability in non-regenerative worms, scientists could one day reverse engineer the process by using a similar molecular switch in humans.
Planarian Non-regenerative Cousin
Scientists usually like to study the planaria flatworm because of its super regenerative abilities. However, Dr Rink and the team thought what is the difference between the planaria and its non-regenerative close cousin the Dendrocoelum lacteum, which is said to be incapable of regrowing their heads.
They studied on the two species and in particular focusing on the Wnt-signaling pathway which transmits information between cells. So the researchers at Dresden blocked the signaling pathway and were successful to make the cells of the worm believe that the Wnt signaling path way was ‘switched off.’ As a consequence the Dendrocoelum lacteum were able to completely grow back the head.
Generating a head that is complete with brain, eyes and all the wiring is highly complicated business. However, as Dr Rink concludes that species with regeneration defects is not irreversible.
So the million dollar question is can this be done to more complex organisms like humans?
Dr Rink mentioned, “We showed that by comparisons amongst related species we can obtain insights into why some animals regenerate while others don’t – that’s an important first step.”
This research was documented in the journal called Nature.
Do you have any comments or thoughts on the above research? Also what are you opinions on my comments on the holographic universe?