In a study funded in part by Harvard University researchers uncover the genetic “switches” responsible for whole body regeneration. Many animals are capable of regenerating lost limbs or even half of their bodies. Researchers look to their genetic code for answers on what genes are responsible for granting these animals this amazing ability. By studying the three-banded panther worm they have come to discover that a piece of non-coding DNA controls the activation of a “master control gene” called early growth response or EGR for short. This EGR acts as a sort of control panel switching other genes on or off. The researchers had to assemble the worm’s genome sequence in order to understand exactly what was taking place and how. They were able to decrease the activity of the EGR gene and discovered that without it, regeneration simply does not occur. Humans also possess this gene however it seems to be wired differently in us than it is in other species unfortunately for us. The researchers hope to discover whether the genes activated during regeneration are the same ones activated in development or if a whole different process is taking place on a genetic level. This discovery opens huge doors into the future of genetics. Perhaps one day we will be capable of activating regeneration in humans who have lost or deformed limbs. Instead of needing an organ transplant people could simply regenerate damaged organs. Regeneration may just be the future of medical science.
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