Growing Arms and Legs

Salamanders, starfish and lizards, oh my!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Lost your tail? Muscles, blood, and nerves with a side of skin please! 

These lucky amphibians can naturally regrow lost limbs. They contain stem cells throughout their life that can turn into…well…anything!

Could this be possible for other animals, or EVEN HUMANS?! Nirosha Murugan of Tufts University and colleagues wanted to find out.

They looked at the African clawed frog because it also can’t regrow limbs. For twenty-four hours, researchers soaked the frog’s wounded leg in a solution. It contained nerve and muscle growth hormones PLUS a drug that prevents tissue from scarring. This drug cocktail mimicked the fluid that surrounds an embryo! 

And..the spa treatment worked! Eighteen months later, the froggie had grown a leg-like structure with nerves, muscles, bones, and toes! While not perfect, the frog could use this new leg to swim again! 

Even with a long road ahead, these results are promising for more complex mammals…like humans! 

I’d say this is a big STEP in the right direction!

Reference: Murugan, N. J., Vigran, H. J., Miller, K. A., Golding, A., Pham, Q. L., Sperry, M. M., … & Levin, M. (2022). Acute multidrug delivery via a wearable bioreactor facilitates long-term limb regeneration and functional recovery in adult Xenopus laevis. Science Advances, 8(4), eabj2164.