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Human Limb Regeneration Might Be Possible Through Immortal Acorn Worms’ DNA Study, Scientists Say

By N. Gutierrez staff@sciencetimes.com | May 23, 2017 03:58 PM EDT

Salamanders, lizards, and worms were long studied by scientists all over the world in order to unlock the capability of the human body to regenerate limbs. However, no luck or clue have been seen by researchers. Luckily, the DNA of the so-called immortal acorn worm might be the solution to the mystery.

According to Mail Online, acorn worms are the human’s closest invertebrate relative. They are described to be humble worms which could regenerate any part of their body at any cost. Hence, researchers from the University of Washington hope that the worm’s DNA could aid them to discover whether humans could regenerate limbs from nothing as well.

Senior author and University of Washington Biology Professor Billie Swalla then noted that he and his colleagues believe that humans have the capability to regenerate limbs through studying the acorn worm’s DNA. However, certain factors like a person’s immune system creating a scar to block full human limb regeneration or taking up too much energy might be the reason why regenerating limbs unlike skin cells seem impossible.

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With that said, the study conducted by the team discovered that Acorn worms regenerate their head, nervous system, and internal organs from nothing. As their genes are similar to humans surprisingly, scientists aim to unlock a certain master gene which would enable them to manipulate human genes to regenerate limbs as reported by The Huffington Post.

Furthermore, lead author Mr. Shawn Luttrell, a University of Washington biology doctoral student explained that 15 days after being cut apart in half, acorn worms tend to grow parts on each end. Thus, resulting to two new acorn worms. “Not only are the tissues regrown, but they are regrown exactly the same way and with the same proportions so that at the end of the process, you can’t tell a regenerated animal from one that has never been cut,” as Swalla stated.

It was then believed that a master gene or a set of genes is indeed the cause of the worm’s immortality since the same healing process occurs upon cutting the worm into a half. For now, human limb regeneration would remain a mystery as scientists aim to unlock the so-called master gene in humans like to that of the acorn worms.

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