Archive for October 5th, 2006|Daily archive page

Grow Your Own Limbs

In Uncategorized on October 5, 2006 at 2:52 am

By Kristen Philipkoski| Also by this reporter
02:00 AM Sep, 22, 2006

In response to the hundreds of soldiers coming home from war with missing arms or legs, Darpa is spending millions of dollars to help scientists learn how people might one day regenerate their own limbs.

Prosthetics are getting better all the time, but they will never be as good as the limbs we were born with. So two teams of scientists at 10 institutions across the country are competing to regrow the first mammalian limb.

The two groups are sharing $7.6 million in grants for a year to find a way to give humans salamander-like abilities. According to Army Medical Command, 411 soldiers who fought in Iraq and 37 in Afghanistan are amputees as a result of combat wounds. If preliminary research is successful, the scientists could receive more funding for up to four years.
Motor Heads
The New Bionics
The prosthetics of the not-so-distant future are intertwined with muscles, nerves … even neurons. By Rachel Metz.

Interactive Bionics Tour:
See applied prosthetics research in action.

DIY Prosthetics
Amputees who can’t find the right prosthetics on the market build their own — sometimes out of Legos. By Quinn Norton.

Grow Your Own Limbs
Scientists are learning how amputees might eschew the prosthetic and grow back missing limbs. By Kristen Philipkoski. [ You are here ]

I Want My Bionics
What if bionics get so good that we want them even if we don’t need them? By Chris Oakes. [ Coming Sep 25 ]

The researchers’ first milestone is to generate a blastema — a mass of cells able to develop into various organs or body parts — in a mammal.

“We have to show we can do that in a mammal by 24 months — and by 48 months we have to show that we can actually regrow digits,” said Stephen Badylak, director of the Center for Pre-Clinical Tissue Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and a principal investigator for his team. “This is really a Star Wars-type project.”

Mammals can’t naturally regenerate limbs or digits beyond the fetal stage. Amphibians like salamanders and newts, however, can regrow limbs, eyes and even spinal cords. So the scientists are on a hunt for the molecular signals responsible for controlling that regenerative ability.

“We’re looking for what genes get turned on and off to make one regenerative and one not,” Badylak said. “We can regenerate as a fetus. We know the potential is there, but it’s a matter of unlocking that potential (in adults).”

Badylak’s team is working with a remarkably regenerative mammal — a mouse discovered by accident in 1998.

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