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A quest that began over a decade ago with a chance observation has reached a milestone: the identification of a gene that may regulate regeneration in mammals. The absence of this single gene, called p21, confers a healing potential in mice long thought to have been lost through evolution and reserved for creatures like flatworms, sponges, and some species of salamander. In a report published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from The Wistar Institute demonstrate that mice that lack the p21 gene gain the ability to regenerate lost or damaged tissue.


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"Much like a newt that has lost a limb, these mice will replace missing or damaged tissue with healthy tissue that lacks any sign of scarring," said the project's lead scientist Ellen Heber-Katz, Ph.D., a professor in Wistar's Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis program. "While we are just beginning to understand the repercussions of these findings, perhaps, one day we'll be able to accelerate healing in humans by temporarily inactivating the p21 gene."


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"In normal cells, p21 acts like a brake to block cell cycle progression in the event of DNA damage, preventing the cells from dividing and potentially becoming cancerous," Heber-Katz said. "In these mice without p21, we do see the expected increase in DNA damage, but surprisingly no increase in cancer has been reported."

I wonder if regenerative tissues form regenerative cancers. That's a scary thought.

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Why would evolution take away our ability to chop off limbs at will, with the knowledge that it will soon grow back. Mother nature, you meany.
 

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Scarring is a fast-acting healing process. I'd imagine regeneration like this is slower, but more complete.
 

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Also, there is a reason evolution took this ability away from most mammals. To ensure our survival, our DNA must be as stable as possible. The regeneration as stated in the article would cause considerable damage to our DNA over time, thereby making our species more vulnerable to disease and malformation.
 

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Originally Posted by F1ForFrags
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Why would evolution take away our ability to chop off limbs at will, with the knowledge that it will soon grow back. Mother nature, you meany.


It also blocks cancer cell production by preventing cells with damaged DNA from multiplying. There are probably long term side effects, which is why they mentioned only turning the gene off temporarily.

I'm wondering about the potential to regrow more then limbs. Things like eyes, i wonder if this could be used to regrow functioning eyes.
 

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Originally Posted by sLowEnd
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What do you mean by regenerative cancer? o.o

I have no idea. It was an uncharacteristic flight of fancy. I don't really know how tumours grow, but they're already pretty different from normal tissue.
 

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the more cells divide the shorter they live though. telomeres & all that.
 

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Originally Posted by sLowEnd
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What do you mean by regenerative cancer? o.o

Basically the cancer comes back no matter what. It is like cutting off your arm and it growing back. Well, you cut out the cancer and just grows right back where you took it out.... Freaky stuff man! :| No thanks I will cut my losses.
 

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Originally Posted by pale_neon
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the more cells divide the shorter they live though. telomeres & all that.

So, step two is creating a treatment to maintain the telomeres in their pre-division state, and step three is to combine the P21 gene and the telemere-mainainance treatment into a topical ointment to be applied to the regenerating tissue.
 

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Originally Posted by MrDeodorant
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So, step two is creating a treatment to maintain the telomeres in their pre-division state, and step three is to combine the P21 gene and the telemere-mainainance treatment into a topical ointment to be applied to the regenerating tissue.

immortality ftw!
 

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Originally Posted by sLowEnd
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Doesn't apply with cancer cells though.

Or certain types of stem cells, although specifically which ones eludes me at the moment. They do say that the regenerating cells act like a type of stem cell, though, so there is hope.
 

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This is bad .... well hypothetical. P21 is a vital part of the cell cycle, it controls apoptosis - programmed cell death. Cells that go bad/mutated "commit suicide" so the mutation isn't passed on and can't spread. Removing that abilty could have serious consequences, I'd be afraid that they'd even consider it.
 

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They want to suppress it, not remove it.
 

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If this works, and can be made stable, think of the possibilities for people with disabilities. Glasses would become a thing of the past, same for contacts. Crippeing injuries could be healed. Though, most likely, scientists will focus on an ED treatment using this.... pathetic.
 

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Originally Posted by Sabis
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Glasses would become a thing of the past, same for contacts.

Why? The lens in your eyes is healthy, it's just in the wrong shape.

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Originally Posted by Sabis

Though, most likely, scientists will focus on an ED treatment using this.... pathetic.

Again, there's no tissue damage, so there's nothing to regenerate.

On the other hand, it could open up new avenues for surgery, that are currently impossible due to scarring.
 

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Exactly. And the risk of surgery gone awry is so greatly reduced that doctors would have less to fear. Think about it, my eyes, for example, are far-sighted and the left eye has nerve damage from when i was a kid (walked into a baseball bat a kid was randomly swingin around). Regenerate the left eye, then laser surgery... OH NOES we damaged em! Regenerate the damaged parts.
 

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Originally Posted by F1ForFrags View Post
Why would evolution take away our ability to chop off limbs at will, with the knowledge that it will soon grow back. Mother nature, you meany.

Well, for starters, you're starting from the assumption that evolution is happening rather than de-evoltution. It's called the law of entropy. Every closed system will eventually break down, and there is no loophole for biology.
 
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