In a recent study, scientists have learned powerful new insights into human tissue regeneration, thanks to research into the sophisticated regenerative abilities of Japanese fire bellied newts.
This has given scientists important insights into the newt’s superior limb regeneration abilities.
When the human body is injured we form scar tissue to seal the body. The Newt’s regenerative abilities is light years ahead of our biotechnology, where it can repeatably regenerate lost or damaged tissues using unique strategies. This continues into its adult life.
Masters In Regeneration
Newts have always amazed scientists with their unique regenerative powers that are superior to almost any other animal. They are masters of regeneration and scientists want to learn how they do this so they can understand the process of tissue regeneration in humans.
There is no other creature that can regenerate like the Newt. It can regenerate limbs, the tail, parts of the eye and the spinal cord, the brain and along with the jaws and heart. When a Newt loses a leg, there is a mass of cells that form at the stump area.
This is called a blastema and from this a newly functional leg is regrown as if the injury never happened. Wouldn’t that be wonderful for humans?
The Newt is very special in this powerful regenerative ability. There are other Amphibians such as the Axolotl (Mexican Salamander) that have this regeneration and they can certainly regenerate their limbs and other body parts. However, they lose this ability when metamorphose from a larva into a juvenile.
In Japan, the University of Tsukuba, researcher Chikafumi Chiba, along with Panagiotis Tsoni from University of Dyton in Ohio, published a paper in the Nature Communications journal, demonstrating the Newt’s exceptional regeneration capabilities.
This body of research can give compelling insights into regeneration in other species such as mammals.
The scientists made a fascinating new discovery that showed the mechanism used for regeneration in the larval newt is not the same mechanism to what is used after metamorphosis.
A researcher on the team, Martin Casco-Robles coming from the same University, is an expert in developing techniques for the creation of Transgenic Newts. This is something, thanks to the advancements of science, has only recently been made possible.
With transgenic Japanese fire bellied newts, the team were successful in tracking different types of cells during limb regeneration with metamorphosis and larval species.
In the past it has been argued that muscle progenitor cells (MPCs) and skeletal muscle fiber cells (SMFCs) make a contribution to newly formed muscle cells during the process of limb regeneration in newts. SMFCs are of the three types of skeletal muscles.
MPCs are considered the inactive predecessors of muscle fiber cells. These are contained in the muscle fibers. Rapid production of new parts can be triggered for both self-renewal and specialization into muscle fiber cells.
A specific gene that is known to be active in SMFCs was inserted into single-celled newt embryos. These transgenic newt embryos were then reared until they reached the swimming larval period when they reached at the age of 3 months, and at 16 months of age, reaching the metamorphosed juvenile stage.
This particular gene is linked to a red fluorescent protein. It could be switched off and on, at chosen times.
Under a carefully controlled regulated procedure with anesthesia, the transgenic newts would have a limb removed.
The newts would then be observed under a microscope, monitoring the fluorescence of the tissues during development as the limb grows back.
One of the lead scientists in this study points out that they discovered, larval newts did not depend on or require muscle fiber cells for limb regeneration.
The end results of these experiments revealed that in larval newt regeneration, that muscle stem/progenitor cells is a prime derivative in regeneration tissue. The skeletal muscle fiber cells at the injured site would temporarily be regressed to a more primitive state, thus they are ‘dedifferentiated.’
At this point the cells then seem to reenter the cell cycle, proliferate, and would end up producing more muscle cells.
Hibiki Tanaka of the Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, highlights, “larval newts use stem/progenitor cells for new muscle in a regenerated limb while metamorphosed newts recruit fiber cells in the stump for the same purpose.”
Understanding Newt Limb Regeneration
The researchers then looked at if the tissues would strictly regenerate in the limb with the same tissue types using reporter-gene that are expressing tissue transplantation experiments. This means that transgenic newts were used for the principal tissues of adult limb, bone, skin and nerve tissues.
These were grafted into the relevant regions of the normal newts.
These newts were then used the limb regeneration experiments. The scientists found out that skin, bone, nerve and muscle tissues would naturally regenerate themselves.
Chikafumi Chiba points out this fascinating research by saying, “the newt switches the cellular mechanism for limb regeneration from a stem/progenitor-based mechanism (larval mode) to a dedifferentiation-based one (adult mode) as it transits beyond metamorphosis.”
He continues, “delineating the mechanisms of these strategies will undoubtedly provide clues for regeneration in other species including mammals.”
Translating to Human Regeneration
What this means is that scientists feel that the newt amphibian has started to move things to the next level of understanding of human tissue and limb regeneration research. Providing powerful insights into limb savaging techniques, wound healing, scar free healing and tissue repair.
The Newt has always been seen as light years ahead of our most advanced biotechnology. This research has helped scientists show how limb regeneration works in the Newt. With this being a major contributor of how scientists can apply this research to mammalian tissue regeneration.
In other words, with an understanding of how to go about reverse engineering what the Newt does in mammals including humans, then newt-like human limb regeneration will one day become possible.
All the scientific literature suggests that the amphibian’s regeneration capabilities is also conserved in humans, but remains dormant or inactive at the moment. If scientists can understand how to turn on these regeneration abilities in humans or even may be tune up regeneration. Or perhaps temporarily then some kind of exotic treatment can be given under hospital conditions on the injured area.
What do you think of this research? Did you find this information insightful and interesting? Please share this knowledge with others and especially with those whom had suffered such life changing injuries as limb loss.
Knowing that scientists are working hard on looking for new kinds of treatments that will make limb regeneration for amputees possible one day.
If you have any questions or experiences to share comment below, I would love to here from you.