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Chemical mix may help regrow limbs in mammals

June 15, 2011
Courtesy of the American Chemical Society
and World Science staff

Move over, newts and sala­man­ders. The mouse may join you as the only an­i­mal that can re-grow their own sev­ered limbs. 

Bi­ol­o­gists are re­port­ing that a sim­ple chem­i­cal cock­tail can co­ax mouse mus­cle fibers to be­come the kinds of cells found in the first stages of a re­gen­er­at­ing limb. Their stu­dy, billed as the first demon­stra­t­ion that mam­mal mus­cle can be turned in­to the bi­o­log­i­cal raw ma­te­ri­al for a new limb, ap­pears in Chem­i­cal Bi­ol­o­gy, a jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Chem­i­cal So­ci­e­ty.

The sci­en­tists, Dar­ren R. Wil­liams and Da-Woon Jung of the Gwangju In­sti­tute of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy in South Ko­rea, are hop­ing their work will even­tu­ally be ap­pli­ca­ble to hu­mans. They say their meth­ods for cre­at­ing the early stages of limb re­genera­t­ion in mouse cells are “rel­a­tively sim­ple, gen­tle, and re­versible.” 

The find­ings “have im­plica­t­ions for both re­gen­er­a­tive med­i­cine and stem cell bi­ol­o­gy,” they wrote. Stem cells are im­ma­ture cells that can grow in­to many cell types and help grow new tis­sues.

In the fu­ture, the re­search­ers sug­gest, the chem­i­cals they use, which in­clude a small mol­e­cule called myo­sev­erin, could speed wound heal­ing by pro­vid­ing new cells at the in­jured site be­fore the wound closes or be­comes in­fected. Their meth­ods might al­so shed light on new ways to switch adult cells in­to the all-pur­pose, so-called “pluripo­tent,” stem cells with the po­ten­tial for grow­ing in­to any type of tis­sue in the body.

In the re­port, the sci­en­tists de­scribed the chem­i­cal cock­tail that they de­vel­oped and used to turn mouse mus­cle fibers in­to mus­cle cells. Wil­liams and Jung then con­vert­ed the mus­cle cells turned in­to fat and bone cells. Those trans­forma­t­ions were re­markably si­m­i­lar to the in­i­tial pro­cesses that oc­cur in the tis­sue of newts and sala­man­ders that is start­ing to re­grow sev­ered limbs, they said.


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Move over, newts and salamanders. The mouse may join you as the only animal that can re-grow their own severed limbs. Biologists are reporting that a simple chemical cocktail can coax mouse muscle fibers to become the kinds of cells found in the first stages of a regenerating limb. Their study, billed as the first demonstration that mammal muscle can be turned into the biological raw material for a new limb, appears in Chemical Biology, a journal of the American Chemical Society. The scientists, Darren R. Williams and Da-Woon Jung of the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea, are hoping their work may eventually be applicable to humans. They say their methods for creating the early stages of limb regeneration in mouse cells are “relatively simple, gentle, and reversible.” The findings “have implications for both regenerative medicine and stem cell biology,” they wrote. Stem cells are immature cells that can grow into many cell types and help grow new tissues. In the future, the researchers suggest, the chemicals they use, which include a small molecule called myoseverin, could speed wound healing by providing new cells at the injured site before the wound closes or becomes infected. Their methods might also shed light on new ways to switch adult cells into the all-purpose, so-called “pluripotent,” stem cells with the potential for growing into any type of tissue in the body. In the report, the scientists described the chemical cocktail that they developed and used to turn mouse muscle fibers into muscle cells. Williams and Jung then converted the muscle cells turned into fat and bone cells. Those transformations were remarkably similar to the initial processes that occur in the tissue of newts and salamanders that is starting to regrow severed limbs, they said.