This work has inevitable with the first discovery of stem cells and perhaps will now build momentum. We are still a long way from home but the possibility of simple tissue replacement is really the magic wand.
I doubt if we overcome the degeneration of aging yet, but that will also likely bend to research.
Most important is this particular step. Whatever else can be done with it, it will open the door for nerve cell regeneration within the spine. That will end the circumscribed lives of paraplegics. That alone will be financially rewarding to society as this particular burden gets eliminated.
Obviously we are looking at major restoration for those who suffer combat injuries. One aspect of present war casualties not commented on is the very low ratio of dead to wounded as compared to other wars of the recent past. Body armor and rapid intervention is keeping troops alive like never before. That means regrowth protocols will and can be swiftly adopted.
In short we have room for optimism and this should now attract a surge of support.
Revealed: The secret of how worms re-grow amputated body parts... and how humans could one day do the same
Last updated at 11:49 AM on 22nd April 2010
Scientists have discovered the gene that allows a worm to regenerate its own body parts after they are amputated, it was announced today.
The research into how Planarian worms can re-grow body parts - including a whole head and brain - could one day make it possible to regenerate old or damaged human organs and tissues, the University of Nottingham said.
The research, led by Dr Aziz Aboobaker, a Research Councils
UK Fellow in the university's , shows a gene called 'Smed-prep' is essential for correctly regenerating a head and brain in Planarian worms. School of Biology
Research into how Planarian worms can re-grow body parts could one day make it possible to regenerate old or damaged human organs and tissues
The worms have the unusual ability to regenerate body parts, including a head and brain, following amputation.
They contain adult stem cells that are constantly dividing and can become all of the missing cell types.
They also have the right set of genes working to make this happen as it should so that when they re-grow body parts they end up in the right place and have the correct size, shape and orientation, the research showed.
The study is published today in the open access journal PLoS Genetics.
Dr Aboobaker said: 'These amazing worms offer us the opportunity to observe tissue regeneration in a very simple animal that can regenerate itself to a remarkable extent and does so as a matter of course.
'We want to be able to understand how adult stem cells can work collectively in any animal to form and replace damaged or missing organs and tissues.
'Any fundamental advances in understanding from other animals can become relevant to humans surprisingly quickly.
'If we know what is happening when tissues are regenerated under normal circumstances, we can begin to formulate how to replace damaged and diseased organs, tissues and cells in an organised and safe way following an injury caused by trauma or disease.
'This would be desirable for treating Alzheimer's disease, for example.
'With this knowledge we can also assess the consequences of what happens when stem cells go wrong during the normal processes of renewal - for example in the blood cell system where rogue stem cells can result in Leukaemia.'
The researchers said Smed-prep is necessary for the correct differentiation and location of cells that make up a Planarian worm's head, as well as for defining where the head should be located.
They found although the presence of Smed-prep is vital so the head and brain are in the right place, the worm stem cells can still be persuaded to form brain cells as a result of the action of other unrelated genes.
But even so, without Smed-prep these cells do not organise themselves to form a normal brain, the researchers said.
Daniel Felix, a graduate student who carried out the experimental work, today added: 'The understanding of the molecular basis for tissue remodelling and regeneration is of vital importance for regenerative medicine.
'Planarians are famous for their immense power of regeneration, being able to regenerate a new head after decapitation.
'With the homeobox gene Smed-prep, we have characterised the first gene necessary for correct anterior fate and patterning during regeneration.
'It has been a really exciting project and I feel very lucky to have had this study as the centre piece of my thesis work.'