British researchers say that they have located the gene that allows Planarians to regrow limbs, organs, and even heads. Planarians, if you never took care of one in middle school biology, are little water-living flatworms about half an inch long that can completely regenerate after being cut in half. No matter how you do it, you’ll wind up with two whole planarians in the end.
From The Register:
Understanding the process completely in worms, according to [Dr. Aziz] Aboobaker, is a necessary prerequisite for making it happen in humans. Another cunning worm trick he wants to get to the bottom of is the method by which the Planarians cope with rogue stem-cells producing defective cells – regeneration gone wrong, after all, in basically cancer.
The doc suggests that it may be possible in future to simply grow new organs and limbs for injuried[sic] or sick humans – even, perhaps, to repair their damaged brain in situ. This would be preferable to removing a duff brain and growing a new one, as happens when a planarian worm’s head is cut off.
Dr. Aboobaker makes no mention of whether the gene may help humans to grow extra limbs or heads, rather than replacing injured ones. The name of the newly discovered gene is “smed-prop.” We probably would have gone with something more… presidential.
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