mammal regeneration!

'Miracle mouse' can grow back lost limbs

Scientists have created a "miracle mouse" that can regenerate amputated limbs or badly damaged organs, making it able to recover from injuries that would kill or permanently disable normal animals. The experimental animal is unique among mammals in its ability to regrow its heart, toes, joints and tail.

Details of the research will be presented next week at a scientific conference on ageing, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, at Cambridge University. Ellen Heber-Katz, professor of immunology at the Wistar Institute, an American biomedical research centre, says that the ability of mice at her laboratory to regenerate appears to be controlled by about a dozen genes. She is still researching their exact functions, but it seems almost certain that humans have comparable genes.

"We have experimented with amputating or damaging several different organs, such as the heart, toes, tail and ears, and just watched them regrow," she said. "It is quite remarkable. The only organ that did not grow back was the brain.

"When we injected foetal liver cells taken from those animals into ordinary mice, they too gained the power of regeneration. We found this persisted even six months after the injection."

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23 Responses:

  1. curgoth says:

    When asked about his remarkable feat, the mouse commented "I'm the best there is at what I do, Bub."

    "It is quite remarkable. The only organ that did not grow back was the brain."

    So, if your head comes away from your neck, it's over?

  2. giles says:

    Yes yes, x-mice, overlords, experimenting with sexuality, etc. What those scientists really need is one of those terrible amusing disgruntled housewive/severed penis incidents - because if you can make a guy's winky grow back, you're going to get some investors.

    It goes without saying that the new winky should not have ears and a tail though. That would be cute at first, but everyone would regret it when it became a staple of Japanese comics and animation.

    • halbe says:

      This, however, would disappoint Lorena Bobbit who prides herself on her castrating abilities.

      • giles says:

        I don't see how it's a disappointment - she should think of it more in an Ancient Greek sense, where she could chain him up, slice it off, feed it to an eagle and then start all over again tomorrow. This is not to be confused with the Norse venom-dripping-on-you-for-all-eternity concept which is much more up R. Kelly's street.

  3. revsphynx says:

    I for one welcome our new regenerating mouse overlords.

  4. basal_surge says:

    Excellent. I'm down half a retina at the moment, in a decade or so they should have this biotech down pat with humans, and I'll have binocular vision again.

  5. treptoplax says:

    The SENS program at Cambridge is the work of one Aubrey de Gray, a computer scientist and theoretical geneticist who believes a human lifespan of 5K years is quite achievable and who many in the field believe is brilliant but nuts.

    Also, he has this Walt-Whitman-meets-Doctor-Frankenstein look going, which is obviously key.

  6. encapsulate says:

    This sounds like the road to zombie apocalypse

  7. internebbish says:

    Sounds hoaxtastic.

    "We have experimented with amputating or damaging several different organs, such as the heart ... and just watched them regrow,"

    Um. You kind of need your heart, to pump blood to keep you "on" don't you? I'd love to see how they kept a mouse alive for several months without a heart waiting for a new one to grow back.

    • flyingcamel says:

      You don't need to completely remove the heart in order to damage it.

      • internebbish says:

        Right, as in the case of a heart attack. Got it. I should never read these posts before coffee.

        • jwz says:

          Close, but not quite. What you mean to say was, "I should never post to whine about an article without actually clicking the link and reading it first."

            Then the researchers used a cryoprobe to freeze parts of the animals' hearts, only to see these grow back again. A similar phenomenon was observed when the optic nerve was severed and the liver partially destroyed.

          • internebbish says:

            Yup. There's no excuse for that. Won't happen again.

            • asan102 says:

              JWZ, the fact that you are consistently able to not only Get someone to admit they did something wrong on the internet, but also to get them to agree not to do it again, never fails to amaze me. You are truly the master of the internets.

              • cranaic says:

                Steven Jobs was able to parlay this ability into a successful career selling consumer electronics and making cartoons. We can just be grateful that JWZ chooses to use his powers for good. Imagine if he went into politics.

  8. sclatter says:

    "Ah, the MRL mice"

    He says that the deal with these mice is that they seem to be defective in scarring and fibroid formation. Apparently, in the absence of "healing", regeneration can take place. This is consistent with the fact that, especially in children, lost fingertips have been known to grow back if they aren't bandaged.

    So there seems to be some sort of competition in mammals between "healing" and regeneration. Note that many "lower" animals (like our dumbass axolotls) regenerate limbs all the time without problems. I'm guessing that we warm-blooded creatures just can't usually afford to go around with a gaping wound while our leg grows back.

    Interestingly, the way they found this phenotype was that they used ear notches to tag their mice. Usually you notch the ear, and it scars up and stays notched. These researchers were much befuddled to returned to mice they thought they'd tagged and find perfect, unblemished ears...

    • greatbiggary says:

      I had my hand yanked through a table circular saw and cut the tip of my index finger off - about 1/4" - but it also cauterized itself, presumably from blade heat and friction, and thus never bled. The next morning I had an entire new fingertip all pink and shiny. THE NEXT MORNING. And I was arguably a child at the time. Now at least I have something along the lines of an explanation.

  9. dasht_brk says:

    I look forward to your "ok, this was a hoax" addendum.

    (This is a separate question from whether or not they
    got something published in a legit conference.)