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Biotech Science

Researchers Identify Gene Involved in Regeneration 134

v1x writes "Researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine have discovered that when a gene called smedwi-2 is silenced in the adult stem cells of planarians, the quarter-inch long worm is unable to carry out a biological process that has mystified scientists for centuries, regeneration."
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Researchers Identify Gene Involved in Regeneration

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  • mmm. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @06:31AM (#14123130) Homepage
    Automatically regenerating veal.
    • Just a quick thought. If you ate regenerating veal, would you ever have to eat again?
      • Re:mmm. (Score:2, Funny)

        by Bacon Bits ( 926911 )

        This reminds me of a fantasy character in one of the many books I've read (whose name is lost on me).

        There was once a goblin that had gone and eaten troll steak, and trolls are notorious for very fast regeneration. The goblin grew large and fat from having eaten the steak as it continually regenerated in his stomach and was continually being digested, but he also suffered constant pains as the steak also tried to get out.

  • Those same scientists later found that they could prompt regeneration simply by holding the lone gene up to a mirror in the executive washroom. Baffled by this, they returned to their labs for further investigation.
  • Unfortunately (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    In humans we call this cancer.
    • Re:Unfortunately (Score:3, Informative)

      by Grayraven ( 95321 )
      It's not really the same thing, cancer is uncontrolled cell division. Humans also regenerate tissue, but in a bit more limited fashion..
    • Re:Unfortunately (Score:5, Informative)

      by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:28PM (#14124350)
      No, cancer is when the suicide/repair gene fails to kill the cell off and it keeps replicating uncontrolably. In humans the protein that does this is p53 [] and does various things like (from the wiki article):

              * It can activate DNA repair proteins when it recognizes damaged DNA.
              * It can also hold the cell cycle at the G1/S regulation point on DNA damage recognition.
              * It can initiate apoptosis, the programmed cell death, if the DNA damage proves to be irrepairable.

      Basically, cancer is uncontrolled production of cells with damaged DNA with no means of stoping it or killing it off. Regeneration, if they could pull it off, would hopefully produce cells with non-damaged or non-mutated DNA.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2005 @06:53AM (#14123177)
    I will bet john bobbit will be happy when this is finally perfected on humans ;-)
    • I will bet john bobbit will be happy when this is finally perfected on humans ;-)

      Bobbit....let's analyze this name by making some associations in combination with phonetics. What do you call a man with no arms or legs in the water? Bob! Hence something was chopped-off, amputated, or (non)surgically removed. Since Bobbit sounds a little like Hobbit, that would imply something else is missing....length, stature, and height, or even intelligence. Perhaps his genetic predispositions for sexual behavior
    • I bet Mrs. Bobbitt will like it too because cutting limbs off might become a lesser crime if they grow back.
    • and how sad the surgeon who developed the Bobbit Weave
  • by Anonymous Coward
    When I cut off my head, I'll have a clone!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2005 @07:02AM (#14123199)
    It's okay, I guess. Quad-damage is better.
  • So that's one of the crucial Time Lord genes....
  • Logic 101 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by n0dalus ( 807994 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @07:13AM (#14123223) Journal
    ... when a gene called smedwi-2 is silenced in the adult stem cells of planarians ...

    That doesn't mean the gene has anything to do with it's regeneration.
    If you silenced a gene in me that allowed me to produce red blood cells would you then say you had found the gene responsible for me being able to respirate (live)?
    • How about we remove the gene that contributes the most to red blood cell production (I'm not claiming that this has been found yet...), and find out? If red blood cell production were reduced as a result of this, you might find that you have a bit more trouble storing oxygen in your blood.
    • Re:Logic 101 (Score:5, Informative)

      by penguin-collective ( 932038 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @07:42AM (#14123277)
      Your comment applies to the summary, not the original paper. You can be certain that the original paper gets this right: biologists are sticklers for making sure statements about causation are correct in their papers (physicists, in contrast, are often quite sloppy about causation).

      The thing to keep in mind for lay readers is that adding this gene to people won't automatically turn them into regenerating superheroes. However, indications are that understanding how this gene functions will tell us something useful about the mechanism by which stem cells are involved in regeneration, and that may have medical applications.
      • biologists are sticklers for making sure statements about causation are correct in their papers (physicists, in contrast, are often quite sloppy about causation).

        Are you referring to papers on time travel or something? I don't see how physicists are "sloppy about causation" anywhere else.
        • Physicists are sloppy about causation almost everywhere except when they explicitly reason about it in areas such as time travel. It's because they can--causation in physics experiments is usually so trivial that it doesn't require a second thought. Biologists often have to consider that what looks like a simple outcome on the surface is caused by the complex and haphazard interplay of a lot of underlying mechanisms; most experimental interventions in biology require detailed experimental controls in orde
          • I'm sure physicists consider "causation" exactly as much as they need to. Experiments in physics frequently have controls, however often in physics you have such control over the experimental situation that you can determine what is happening directly. In such cases, there is no sloppiness. I guess you don't mean they are behaving in a less than perfect manner, you are just talking about a difference between the kinds of things physics and biology are dealing with. (If not, perhaps you can point to a case w
            • I think we agree on the facts of what physicists do and why they do it (they often get away with it). But I would argue that it is sloppiness and that it has been holding back physics for decades. That's a separate debate, though.
              • OK, I'll bite. What are the symptoms of being held back? Can you give any examples where being sloppy about causation has hindered a field?
  • by gringer ( 252588 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @07:13AM (#14123224)
    I'm wondering if this may have anything that could be useful in recovery following wounding. Obviously there is already some way for cells to regenerate to some degree after damage. Maybe you could do something like applying a spray of smedwi-2 to either speed up the process, or allow the body to recover from more serious damage.
    • Yeah, well. If they're going to turn that stuff into a product they'll need a better name to make it marketable. Nobody is going to use "smedwi spray" on me, that's for sure. Now, call it "Regeneron" or "Growback Machine" or something like that and it might be popular. Of course, since this is a gene you would some kind of gene replacement therapy to make it do anything.
    • wait, wait.

      Did you just suggest spraying someone with a DNA segment?
  • looks like the next generation of the bilderberg group/illuminati/freemasons/real underground rulers of earth - will be immortal, thus not needing to pass down the lineage of the family line. maybe the great dark lord will end up like krang from the turtles
  • by betasam ( 713798 ) <betasam&gmail,com> on Sunday November 27, 2005 @07:34AM (#14123263) Homepage Journal
    smedwi-2 (not quite a catchy name is it?) is in the line of the next aging inhibition, youth sustenance attempts that humanity is so fond of. I wonder what happend to the Telomerase craze of the past. So when genetic modification drugs (probably virii) are going to make a huge entry into the pharma market, we'll be seeing the likes of this one the list. On the positive side, perhaps degenerative diseases like Parkinsons' and like geriatric disorders do have stronger solutions coming up.
  • Mildly detached from the worms here, but if such a genetic modification for the human genome could be placed in a virus- or bacteria-like carrier would it not form a pretty lethal biological weapon?

    I know I'm quite attached to things like wounds healing themselves, how about you?
  • I usually don't post on these...

    and of course, the technology and the means are probably decades away....

    but yah, this might be a cool superpower to have :)

  • If only... (Score:2, Funny)

    by bumby ( 589283 )
    ...they would find the gene for quad damage too.
  • illusions of you (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xiph ( 723935 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @08:20AM (#14123331)
    This article comes close to saying that we'll have this in humans soon, probably to keep you interested. Let me set this straight, you won't be able to get a cool regeneration ability.

    a. we don't know how this would work with the rest of the human genome
    b. we have rules against testing a
    c. the technology isn't complete for changing a humans dna
    d. we have rules blocking a lot of research into c
    e. It would be cool, so it's not going to be publicly available.

    On the other hand, this is interesting research, and could help a lot in several fields of medicine, though i believe it would be mainly transplant medicine, and anything usable is still 10-20 years into the future. So get your hopes up for your kids, but realize this, you will die the same way as your grandparents.
  • Good News (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheZorch ( 925979 ) <thezorch @ g m a i l . c om> on Sunday November 27, 2005 @09:05AM (#14123418) Homepage
    I'm visually handicapped, not enough so that I can't see a large computer monitors, and I know others who are visually and physically handicapped in some way.

    I can tell you that they would all welcome a new technology that would allow people who have lost limbs to grow them back or regenerate eyes so they could see. You underestimate the the lobbying powers of Disabled Americans. We have a great deal of influence, almost as much as the AARP and the NRA, and they both have immense clout.

    Congress can ignore some of us some of the time but they can't ignore all of us all the of the time. If its proven that limbs and organs can be regenerated by activating such a gene in the human genome then mark my words we'll make them make it legal.
  • Hmmm.... (Score:2, Funny)

    I shouldn't have cut that finger off before I finished reading... :)
  • by Frangible ( 881728 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @11:32AM (#14123797)
    Regeneration is a very complex process and its behavior is not governed by a single gene or protein expression, as it involves a variety of very complex mechanics that are not fully understood. While I'm sure this gene is responsible for part of the regenerative process in worms, simply eliminating one gene and breaking something doesn't mean this is going to translate into a human response. Regeneration research has been going on for many years, and it has produced limited results in rats as some of the mechanics responsible have been found. Further, stem cells don't play the only role in regeneration in more complex animals similar to mammals like the newt; the first step of regeneration is muscle cells dedifferentiating and then differentiating into a new replacement cell type. There are multiple proteins (and multiple genes) involved with this step alone, and it's one of many.
  • Finally... (Score:2, Funny)

    by azureice ( 904620 )
    My +2 Regeneration tunic can be a reality!
  • If they'll be selling RoRs soon, how long before I can buy a WoW?
  • RATS!!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by KronosReaver ( 932860 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @12:34PM (#14124043)
    So what are the chances we will now have Self Regenerating, Near Immortal, Fearless Rats??? Just strap on some inexpensive lasers, and have Bose equip them for all-terrain duty.... Build an army, or replace the family guard dog... Hrmmm...
  • Eh, i'd rather they develop fast healing....
  • The Umbrella corperation denies all reports of human genetics testing.
    This is simply an outbreak of the asian bird flu, the quarintine procedures will be enforced.
  • Now all I need is admantium claws.
  • You know this is exactly how the Lizard came about in Spiderman...
  • Wolverine (Score:2, Funny)

    by dskippy0 ( 900740 )
    Sweet, now we can genetically engineer Wolverine. All we need now is for someone to discover adamantium.
  • Time to break out the fire and acid!
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @07:53PM (#14125773) Journal
    A little while ago Wired had a story on a similar topic, in which a strain of mice was discovered which was able to regrow organs. From the Wired article [] (which has some neat pictures of regenerating mouse ears):

    Mice discovered accidentally at the Wistar Institute in Pennsylvania have the seemingly miraculous ability to regenerate like a salamander, and even regrow vital organs.

    Researchers systematically amputated digits and damaged various organs of the mice, including the heart, liver and brain, most of which grew back.

    The results stunned scientists because if such regeneration is possible in this mammal, it might also be possible in humans.

    The researchers also made a remarkable second discovery: When cells from the regenerative mice were injected into normal mice, the normal mice adopted the ability to regenerate. And when the special mice bred with normal mice, their offspring inherited souped-up regeneration capabilities. ...

    Heber-Katz discovered the strain in 1998 accidentally while working with mice specially bred for studying autoimmune diseases.

    She had pierced holes in the ears of the genetically altered mice to distinguish them from a control group, but they healed quickly with no scarring.

    She and her colleagues wanted to find out what other parts of this strain of mice would grow back, so they snipped off the tip of a tail, severed a spinal cord, injured the optic nerve and damaged various internal organs. ...

    The mice seem to exhibit regenerative capabilities similar to that of human fetuses in the first trimester, said Dr. Stephen Badylak, a surgery research professor and director of the Center for Pre-Clinical Tissue Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh's McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

    "It offers us insight into a more fetal-like healing response, where scar tissue is minimal and regeneration is abundant," Badylak said. "It's a great model to examine healing mechanisms and use that information to see if we can stimulate the same thing to happen in people."

    Heber-Katz said she will soon publish her results on digit regrowth in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
  • New product 'SpreadMe2' is rolled out as a better alternative to Viagra

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