Saturday, November 17, 2018

Break a leg... and repair it?

   Don't tell PETA, but researchers are amputating frog legs in the name of science! While this may seem disturbing just know that the street value for frog legs is pretty decent; someone has to pay for the funding of research! On the bright side, there is no reason to worry as these frogs can grow back their limbs. Known as the African clawed frog, these little guys have the ability to regenerate limbs, though not as good as the original. Luckily for the frogs, researchers have come up with a device that can assist the healing process to help grow back their limbs. Using a 3D printer, scientists created a bioreactor device made out of silicon and inserted a hydrogel. The gel itself has "hydrating silk proteins that promote healing and regeneration" but scientists also added progesterone, a hormone that can "promote nerve, blood vessel, and bone tissue repair" (1).

   In order for the bioreactor device to work, the researchers sutured the device where the limb was amputated for a total of 24 hours before removing it. At this point, the goal was that the device would release progesterone where the limb was amputated and increase the frog's regenerative abilities. With different test groups to ensure that the bioreactor device was the cause of any positive outcomes, the experimental group did grow a stronger and better limb. Typically, the frog grows a limb that is subpar, something the article describes as a spike-like structure. However, with the bioreactor in place, the frog regenerated a limb that was noticeably different from the other groups, essentially resembling an almost fully healed limb. This can be attributed to the change in gene expression from the bioreactor causing an upregulation in healing factors and a downregulation in scarring factors.

   Ultimately, due to the change in gene expression from the bioreactor device, the frogs were able to swim again as if they had never lost their leg. While this is only a laboratory setting for a device that is working on frogs, imagine the implications this could have on humans. Obviously we do not regenerate limbs, but regeneration has been something of wonder in the realm of science for a while. I think that once scientists become more familiar with how regeneration works, that maybe one day there could be procedures to help those who had lost limbs. However, there may be a parallel to my last post in which I talked about the ethics of CRISPR for humans. Would regeneration yield a  stronger and better limb? I would hope so, but then comes the argument of genetic modification and enhancement. What if other body parts or organs could be regenerated? Stay posted, just might see my name in a paper one day...

1 comment:

  1. This was a fun read! It would be interesting to see where this research leads. If scientists can grow frog legs back, maybe they could move onto bigger animals next or different organs. It would be interesting to see if there are any long term side effects.