Limb regeneration is all about regrowing lost limbs in humans who have had such life changing injuries. Alongside this, is the process of limb salvaging techniques where new novel treatments in regenerative medicine allowing the physician better options in saving and repairing a damaged limb.
When a person loses a finger, toe, arm or leg, there is no cure at the moment for such a traumatic injury. The best option in the meantime is advanced prosthetics which will allow the patient to continue with their lives with some regained function.
Prosthetic technologies have come along way to help improve the quality of an amputee’s life. What they are able to achieve today despite the physical challenges, along with overcoming the psychological and emotional trauma, is to be deeply admired and highly commendable. You can see this with the superb achievements in the Paralympics, along with personal pursuits in mountain climbing, horse riding and swimming, to name a few.
However, no technology can ever truly be a replacement or substitute for the natural limb. It would be wonderful if we could put things back to the way they were before for the patient.
The Holy Gail as a medical cure is Human Limb Regeneration, where the injured site of the lost appendage is given an exotic treatment that would allow the lost limb to grow back. Another observation would be giving the patient a set of drugs that would switch on the required genes to allow regeneration to take place. Basically, changing the default mechanism to the way the human body responds to a traumatic injury.
A third option would be a ‘bio-limb’ grown in the laboratory with a scaffolding using the patient’s own stem cells. Similar to now the emerging field of growing organs in the lab, the new limb would be attached to the patient without any problems of cellular rejection.
The latter option of a limb grown in the lab may be the most likely to take place in the near future with true regeneration following on when medical science gets more advance.
However, changing the default mechanism to allow the body to grow back an arm or leg is the ideal with all the original genetic characteristics. Since the cellular programming, holding the ‘memory’, knowing how to do this is already in the DNA sequencing. Clearly that is what is happening during the development of a human embryo and also with some species that can regenerate.
DNA stands for, deoxyribonucleic acid, using the computer analogy, the DNA is the biological hard drive, storing genetic information.
The Process Of Regeneration
The following video shows you insight of limb regeneration taking place with a Newt, where its regeneration abilities are light years ahead of our current biotechnology.
Normally when we have a traumatic injury such as limb loss, we scar and cannot heal. This is the body’s process of protecting itself and covering the wound. However, as was shown in the video presentation above instead of scarring some amphibians will form what is know as a Blastema.
A blastema is a mass of cells that have developed at the injured site, that then go on to form the new limb or organ. They have the exact specific instructions on how to form the missing body part that was lost.
If the finger is lost then the instructions will grow back just the finger. If the arm or leg is lost then the instructions will know to grow back the limb. If only part of the limb is lost, say below the elbow or below the knee, then the instructions will contain what is required to grow back that missing part of the limb.
Scientists have been doing intensive research into limb regeneration and attempts have been made, being partially successful in generating a blastema with mammals.
In an ambitious project with US Department of Defense and DARPA (US Military and Pentagon’s R&D wing), where back in 2008 they injected $300 million on a preliminary 5 year research project to fast track research and development in regenerative medicine.
One element of this project was the controversial goal of how to grow back lost limbs, like the salamander does, for the 1500+ soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Whom have had so many horrific injuries including multiple limb loss, disfiguring burns, and so on.
They setup their own institution into regenerative medicine called The Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (or AFIRM) on helping wounded soldiers.
One of the issues with new medical technologies is that they stay in the lab and the patient does not see any benefit that could help them due to regulatory approval issues.
The idea with the civil servants is that as they come home from combat, during rehabilitation and recover, new treatments can be applied on upcoming experimental technologies from the lab.
This project is on going and in its second phase – AFIRM II. It is part of a longer term bigger goal of what they call ‘restorative injury repair’, the eventual goal aim of fully restoring what was lost.
Some of this research proving highly successful such as some cases of digit regeneration and new kinds of treatments for burns is now bleeding its way into the civilian population.
Impossible Or I’m Possible?
DARPA tends to have the reputation of taking on the “impossible” or working with non-conventional people and portrayed in the media, as another of its “crackpot” ideas, trying to turn science fiction into reality.
In more recent years they have been funding and kick started a long term 100 year project with NASA, on what it would take to build a star ship for interstellar travel with faster than light capability. Initial experiments are being carried out, to try and generate a tiny instance of a warp field in the laboratory.
DARPA are the ones whom gave us the smart phone and the internet, that has since transformed our lives. Thanks to research and development they were doing back in the 70s and 80s.
So the same people whom gave us the internet that has revolutionized our society, are now going to show us how to regrow lost limbs for amputees and make warp drive in star trek a reality.
Meet The Salamander
What has been discussed about limb regeneration in humans, is not as far fetch as it may seem as we see this taking place in nature all the time with certain species.
The salamander which experts see as the jewel in the crown for regeneration, along with reptiles can magically grow back their tail or leg. In humans the only organ that can regenerate is the liver which is essential to filter toxins from the body.
According to experts in this field, all the scientific literature shows that the mechanism for regeneration in the Salamander has also been conserved in humans. In other words since we all evolved from the same place in genetics, humans must have the same set of genes that allows for new limbs and organs to be regrown. It is just that the set of genes is dormant or switched off at the moment preventing regeneration to occur.
If scientists could figure out how to switch on these genes or reverse engineer new set of genes based on the Salamander model, then it could be possible to regrow lost limbs or new organs from scratch.
Research in this area has come along way but progress has been slow and of course funding is always a challenge. However, scientists feel that they will eventually make a breakthrough, most likely from the mouse model due to close relation in genetics and DNA sequencing to humans.
To conclude, scientists think that “Salamander-Like” Limb Regeneration in Humans is possible and its not just a question of “If” but a question of “When” this will happen.
So how far are we from such a breakthrough? Some scientists whom specialize in this area have commented that while it is science fiction now, it will be science fact in 10 years, with a medical practical application available.
In this website you will see a variety of posts on what research has been done and what may happen in the future. Along with any upcoming new breakthrough technologies.
Just think of the implications and transformation that would be for those victims of sickening terrorist attacks, diabetic related illnesses and accidents. It will be one of the most astonishing discoveries in the history of medical science.
Contact Your Local Representative
Please comment below on your thoughts and feelings on this topic. I love to hear from you.
Also if regeneration is something of great importance to you and humanity, contact your local representatives in your area to encourage support for regeneration to aid further research and funding.
If you need any advice in this please contact me and I am happy to help.
With each scientific breakthrough that takes place, we get closure to healing the world.
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