Investigating Salamander Heart Regeneration
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Researchers hope that continued study of salamanders and other species with exceptional regenerative capabilities will yield results that can inform the development of regenerative treatments for humans:

We have known for hundreds of years that newts and other types of salamanders regenerate limbs. If you cut off a leg or tail, it will grow back within a few weeks. "To our surprise, if you surgically remove part of the heart, (the creature) will regenerate a new heart within just six weeks or so. In fact, you can remove up to half of the heart, and it will still regenerate completely!"

Before the research team dove deeper into this finding, [they] had to determine how a salamander could even live with a partial heart. It turns out that a clot forms at the surgical site, acting much like the cork in a wine bottle, to prevent the amphibian from bleeding to death. What is the cork made of? In part, stem cells. Stem cells have unlimited potential for growth and can develop into cells with a specialized fate or function. Embryonic stem cells, for example, can give rise to all of the cells in the body and, thus, have promising potential for therapeutics.

As it turns out, stem cells play an important role in regeneration in newts. "We discovered that at least some of the stem cells for heart regeneration come from the blood, including the clot." This finding could have exciting implications for therapies in humans with heart damage. By finding the genes responsible for regeneration in the newt, researchers may be able to identify pathways that are similar in newts and people and could be used to induce regeneration in the human heart.


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