New Scientific Discovery Could Lead To Salamander Like Limb Regeneration In Humans
Researchers are closer to understanding what animals need to regrow their body parts, after Australian scientists established the key role of the immune system in salamanders.
The amphibians’ immune systems are the key to the trait, which allows them to regrow limbs as well as regenerate spinal cords, brain tissue and even parts of their heart.
Now scientists say immune cells called macrophages could be vital for regeneration – and could help scientists control the process and even use it in humans.
“We can look to salamanders as a template of what perfect regeneration looks like,” lead study author James Godwin said in a statement. “We need to know exactly what salamanders do and how they do it well, so we can reverse-engineer that into human therapies,” added Goodwin, of the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) at Monash University in Melbourne.
He has suspected for a while that macrophages, cells involved in the immune system, might be important in the regeneration process.
Macrophages are a major immune cell type which roam the tissues engulfing invaders like bacteria and fungi, explains Godwin.
“But they’re not just involved in gobbling up debris. They actively determine repair – for example they are important in human muscle repair,” he adds.
“So we asked the question – are macrophages needed for limb regeneration?,” he says.
When the team got rid of the macrophages in the salamanders, it had a “devastating effect” on their ability to regrow limbs. The animals ended up with fibrosis (scarring) and a stump.
Godwin believes that chemicals released by the animals’ macrophages are essential for the regeneration process, and is conducting experiments now to investigate this.
In salamanders, the new tissue is scar-free. This has benefits for liver and heart disease, which are linked to fibrosis or scarring.
“Now we have a really good idea of what is required for perfect regeneration,” Godwin said of his work with colleagues Nadia Rosenthal and Alexander Pinto.
“We have a smoking gun. If we can find out what they deliver to make regeneration occur, then we might be able to tweak the human wound-healing scenario.”
Godwin calls macrophages “the guardian angels of the body”.
A major break through indeed!