Researchers Aim for Limb Regeneration by 2030

It is interesting to see more researchers willing to place timelines on the regeneration or tissue engineering of replacement limbs, as is the case here. It is a sign of confidence and progress in the foundations of the field. So far the closest approach to this goal has been the decellularization of donor rat limbs, followed by replacement of cells with those of a potential recipient to produce a leg ready for transplantation, but it seems to me just as likely that human limb regrowth will result from advances in the understanding of regeneration in species like salamanders, in which individuals are capable of regenerating lost limbs.

The University of Connecticut has announced the launch of its new grand research challenge: regeneration of a human knee within 7 years, and an entire limb within 15 years. This major international research undertaking, called The HEAL Project, stands for Hartford Engineering a Limb. This is a collaboration of top tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and bioengineering experts dedicated to the mission of advancing the fields and developing future therapies for patients living with musculoskeletal defects or who have limb injury or loss. "The launch of the HEAL Project is a transformative moment for science and medicine. This is the first international effort ever for knee and limb engineering. The time is now to pursue this much needed grand challenge to benefit those patients suffering from debilitating knee injuries, osteoarthritis, or affected by the devastating effects of limb injury or loss."

Researchers project it will take 7 to 15 years for first knee and then limb regeneration breakthroughs based on the time it took to successfully regenerate bone and ligaments. To work toward its milestones, HEAL will be building upon the latest advances in regenerative engineering, tissue regeneration, stem cell research, nano-materials science, physics, developmental biology, and advanced manufacturing. In addition, researchers will conduct clinical trials to test any new promising therapies. "Our research group will harness the concepts of convergence, bringing together our talents, latest scientific knowledge, research advances, and cutting-edge tools to help make our grand challenge of knee and limb regeneration a reality."



So, if limbs could be regenerated in 2030, it's likely that other organs will be able too. I guess there are no huge differences in complexity among organs, and I guess other scientific teams are working on other organs too. So, if in the 30's, almost all organs can be regenerated, it would mean that LEV should be close then, wouldn't it? Maybe in the 40's or 50's?

Posted by: Josep at November 12th, 2015 9:38 AM

(LEV = longevity escape velocity)

Posted by: Josep at November 12th, 2015 9:39 AM

Josep, a bioartificial organ can't save you from atherosclerosis, neurodegeneration or metastatic cancer.

Posted by: Antonio at November 12th, 2015 10:43 AM

This is a very bold goal. Very bold. A limb is in some ways more complex than even a solid organ. If they had 2 billion dollars of funding I might be more inclined to believe them.

They claim to have sorted out bone and tendons, but I don't recall reading about the use of lab grown bone or tendons in the clinic...

Posted by: Jim at November 12th, 2015 11:00 AM

It's a lofty goal indeed. This is one of those things where I'll believe it when I see it though, especially on that timeline. Antonio is right that artificial organs won't save you from those things. That being said, I'd like to think that in a world where we could regenerate limbs and organs that we'd have a better grasp on at least controlling those diseases.

Posted by: Ham at November 12th, 2015 1:56 PM

I guess I should laud them for being so bold. This is an extremely bold goal. 2030 is only 15 years away; is that really enough time to figure out how to regenerate entire human adult limbs? Look back to 2000: how far have we advanced in that amount of time? Now extrapolate forward to 2030: do you really think we'll be regrowing whole limbs? Its not for me to say they can't do it, but i would be skeptical.

Regenerating human knees may be possible in that amount of time, though. But I'm not a scientist myself, so I can't really say with any certainty. I would love for them to succeed in both their goals, however long it actually takes. We'll see.

Posted by: MissKaioshin at November 12th, 2015 9:17 PM

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.

Posted by: John P at November 12th, 2015 9:36 PM

The trick is that even if the first limbs can be regenerated in 2030, those will most likely be mouse limbs. The translation to human patients would take many more years.

I'm supportive of such an endeavour, though, and I agree with the press release that "the time is now to pursue this much needed super, grand challenge". Once we can regrow limbs, we won't have reached the famous Longevity Escape Velocity, but what a miracle will it be for the millions of limb-impaired people.

We generally need to be bolder in our scientific goals, both intellectually and financially.

Posted by: Nico at November 15th, 2015 2:04 PM

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