Regeneration of human body parts has posed a challenge to scientists for generations, but now one group of researchers is closer than ever to developing a way to re-grow human organs and limbs. By using body parts from other animals and revolutionary cell regeneration techniques, scientists are growing human muscles, arteries, veins and even hearts in the lab.
Although it could be a while before the organs are developed enough to use in routine medicine, there have already been some breakthroughs. One Marine who had his leg severely injured in an attack is re-growing his muscles with the help of regenerated tissue and has gained back 50% of his muscle's previous strength already.
Other scientists studying regeneration are looking to other animals, specifically salamanders, for guidance on how flesh could be manipulated to grow back missing parts. Looking to nature and animals to solve an engineering problem is called Biomimicry. If a salamander loses a limb, it simply grows back, whereas human bodies have evolved to have scar tissue grow over the wound. Scientists believe that in the future, humans may also develop the ability to regrow body parts through gene and cell therapies.
"When you cut off a salamander's arm, you can cut it off at any level. So, you can cut off fingers, you can cut off at the wrist or the arm or the elbow or the shoulder. And whatever you cut off, that's always what grows back. It doesn't grow back more and it doesn't grow back less." - Dr. David Gardiner, researcher
"So, the matrix, the extracellular matrix -- we call it ECM -- is a sort of unique collection of structural and functional molecules that we then use as a therapeutic device to tell the body how to heal itself." - Dr. Stephen Badylak, researcher
1. What does regeneration mean?
2. What function do cells serve in the human body?
3. What happens when you get injured? How does your body react?
1. According to the video, which animal is the “regeneration champ?”
2. Why does one of the scientists in the video think humans could eventually regenerate their own limbs and organs as well? How would that work?
3. Why is physical therapy essential for Corporal Hernandez’s recovery? How does it work with the muscle regeneration to improve his strength?
4. Do you think it’s a good idea to grow body parts in the lab and possibly find a way for humans to regrow their own limbs? Why or why not?