Salamander Limbs

Oh my aching joints! If only knees grew on trees!

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

When a salamander gets grabbed by the tail – off it comes. He just grows a new one! Amphibians that can grow back limbs have special proteins known as micro-R-N-As. These help create newer, younger proteins that aid in regeneration.

Unfortunately, humans can’t do the same! Our joints break down over time, leading to osteoarthritis. The ability to regrow joint tissue was thought to be limited in humans. BUT do we have the potential?

Enter Virginia Kraus and colleagues from Duke University. They collected joint tissues in eighteen patients aged between thirty and eighty-seven. Some had osteoarthritis, some did not. Next, they tested for the location of younger proteins in the hip, knee, and ankle.

Results? Ankle tissue had higher amounts of younger, newly made proteins, followed by knees and hips. Younger proteins mean better tissue repair. Kraus hopes these proteins can be transplanted to slow joint damage in other body parts.

Maybe regrowing that knee won’t take too long…IF we can channel our inner salamander!