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."