Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Regenerating Lost Limbs

Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

When most animals lose a limb, it is lost forever. However, several animals such as salamanders and lizards are known to regrow lost limbs. In a new study, researchers have been able to regenerate a lost limb in adult African clawed frogs, Xenopus laevis, which is a species that normally does not regrow lost limbs. Regeneration was achieved by applying a wearable silicon bioreactor cap called a BioDome containing a mixture of 5 drugs to the end of the animal’s amputated hindleg for 24 hours. After 18 months, the animals that were treated with the BioDome regenerated functional hindlimbs complete with bones, nerves, and blood vessels. In fact, their regrown limbs functioned similarly as the original and they could use them to walk, swim, and push.

According to co-author Dr. David Kaplan, as quoted in a university press release, “Using the BioDome cap in the first 24 hours helps mimic an amniotic-like environment which, along with the right drugs, allows the rebuilding process to proceed without the interference of scar tissue.”

While the hope is to one day be able to use a similar technique to encourage limb regeneration in humans and other injured animals, there is much research to be done as the physiology of limb growth in frogs is not quite like humans.  


NJ Murugan, HJ Vigran, KA Miller, A Golding, QL Pham,, MM Sperry, C Rasmussen-Ivey, AW Kane, DL Kaplan, M Levin. Acute multidrug delivery via a wearable bioreactor facilitates long-term limb regeneration and functional recovery in adult Xenopus laevis. Science Advances. 8(4): 2022. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abj2164

Tufts University Press Release

Categories: Illnesses and Injuries

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