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Regenerating Muscle Cells With Newt-Inspired Tech 88

gmp writes "The NY Times and the Wall Street Journal are reporting on a new paper, published in the science journal Cell Stem Cell, where scientists, inspired by the ability of newts and other lower organisms to regrow lost limbs, have demonstrated that adult mammalian cells can be made to regenerate by suppressing a pair of anti-cancer genes. 'Interfering with tumor suppressor genes is a dangerous game, but Dr. Pomerantz said the genes could be inhibited for just a short period by applying the right dose of drug. When the drug has dissipated, the antitumor function of the gene would be restored. Finding the right combination of genes to suppress was a critical step in the new research. One of the two tumor suppressor genes is an ancient gene, known as Rb, which is naturally inactivated in newts and fish when they start regenerating tissue. Mammals possess both the Rb gene and a backup, called the Arf gene, which will close down a cancer-prone cell if Rb fails to do so.' Is regeneration nature's default, only turned off by our evolved defenses against cancer?"
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Regenerating Muscle Cells With Newt-Inspired Tech

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  • "Testicles from a newt...I bet he's a transsexual now!"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 06, 2010 @11:14AM (#33162440)

    Well, I got better.

  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @11:17AM (#33162482) Homepage Journal

    So first they turn you into a newt, and then you get better?

    • after you got used to feed on small insects...
    • Well disabling anti-cancer genes. Let's have the marketing department "fix" the issue :

      "regenerate long lost limbs ! act now and you get 3 kg for free*"

      (small print)

      (* 3kg free may be either tumor growth or a bowl of sweat collected from our medical department, depending)


      People who need govt to protect them from religion cannot have much faith in the logic of atheism. And given that government is much more about restricting religion than it ever was about enforcing it, this says a lot more about atheists

  • So, if they can suppress the gene would it be possible for me to grow a tail?

    Sure I would need to buy new clothes and chairs would be redesigned but think of how useful a tail would be.

  • Nature's Default? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jayme0227 ( 1558821 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @11:21AM (#33162556) Journal

    Is regeneration nature's default, only turned off by our evolved defenses against cancer?

    I'm not a biologist, but I'd assume that "nature's default" is simply for a cell to reproduce. . Regeneration is far more complex than that. I would expect a need for a coordinated response by the body to ensure that the *right* cells are reproducing. Without that, we'd just be dealing with the tumors those genes are designed to stop.

    • Given that tumors are basically cell growths that aren't coordinated, you best hope against hope that the response is coordinated if you disable this gene.

      And since this gene has been in our dna for a long time, the information coordinating the response is going to be outdated, or simply randomized/erased (genes that are deactivated -for any reason- are randomized by evolution). It seems unlikely in the extreme that the response will be coordinated.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      If the tissue is correctly located, it "knows" into what it should differentiate thanks to morphogens : [] These are substances emitted only in specific parts of the body and their concentration at a given place is the hint a cell use to know which kind of behavior it must adopt.
  • It's not a tumor at all!
  • Anyone have any benchmarks? I know Darpa has that new mind controlled robot arm. I'd like to see some performance numbers from that vs. a beefed up regenerating organic arm. I need more crush power to... oh wait.. I control crap with my thoughts don't I... I think preservation of existing tissue is more useful than growing new imo.
  • Lifespan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by divisionbyzero ( 300681 ) on Friday August 06, 2010 @11:55AM (#33163028)

    It make sense that newts would have cancer suppressors turned off because they can reproduce and die of other causes before any cancer would kill them and regeneration is likely very handy. Humans on the other hand need to live a fair amount of time to ensure reproductive success and regeneration is likely of less value due to the social supports in human society.

    • Right, that was essentially my point in my previous post. Turning off cancer suppressors in order to facilitate regeneration in an organism with a long lifespan, such as a human being, and whose limbs I assume would be more complex to regrow than a newt's, seems like a bad tradeoff. I'd rather have a healthy body that's missing an arm than a cancer-prone or cancer-ridden body that has both limbs. But I guess that's just me...
    • Newts can and do regularly live over 20 years.
    • Crocodiles show some ability to regenerate certain tissues: []

      Teeth regrow in healthy individuals, too. The larger species are thought to live 70 to 100 years, and the animal isn't known to suffer unduly from cancer.

      It does have an awful time in the everglades working out what sex it is. (Oestrogenic pollutants)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by izomiac ( 815208 )
      The 5-6 inch long newts live for 20 years, which is pretty good for such a small animal. The 16 inch long salamanders live for 30 years, while the 5-6 foot long salamanders are thought to live about 80 years. If you have a mammal and an amphibian of similar size, the amphibian seems to have a much longer lifespan

      In humans, the liver can regenerate quite well, but liver cancer isn't a leading cause of death. Your skin sloughs off every month and regenerates, yet skin cancer risk follows sun exposure ra
  • Almost by definition, anything regenerated using this technology would have a higher incidence of cancer. One wonders if regulatory bodies can wrap their rules around the notion that the cure is still worth the possible side effects.
    • I guess I'm the only one thinking outside the box when I see that the two anti-cancer genes specified in the article does not say that it's the human body's only defense against cancer?

      That and it clearly says to turn it off for a duration of time, not entirely.

      • Is your theory that there will NOT be an increased rate of occurrence when you turn off two major defense mechanisms? I'd like to hear how you make that case if so.
      • article does not say that it's the human body's only defense against cancer?

        Or perhaps more interestingly: is the Rb gene the newt's only defense against cancer? Specifically, have newts developed alternative cancer defenses that support Rb suppression during regeneration?

        git cherry-pick newt/5f5c3c4f

    • Almost by definition, anything regenerated using this technology would have a higher incidence of cancer.

      Not at all, by my reading. The tumor suppressors are only turned off to allow the tissue to regenerate, when the drug dissipates, they are turned back on. Anything still acting like a target for the anti-cancer genes would be destroyed like normal.

      • After the drug dissipates, it will be destroyed, if it hasn't already metastasized or otherwise become a problem that the genes can't fix. In the meantime, two major cancer defenses are inert. I'm not sure how that would somehow not be an obvious window of opportunity for cancer to creep in, particularly when you've got massive tissue generation happening in the area affected
        • A window of opportunity doesn't guarantee infection. Leaving your door unlocked doesn't mean you'll get robbed; it just elevates the risk. So the question is, what is the baseline risk? At what frequency do our cells normally become become malignant growths, and what percentage of these are prevented by these genes? I don't think we're in a position to know the latter as yet, as the idea of disabling them seems relatively new. Are those genes stopping 10 tumors a week, or less than one a year? If you g
          • I think you missed my original point. I wasn't saying this is a bad idea, I was saying that there is a strong likelihood that there will be an increased chance of cancer. I would imagine a significantly increased chance, given the combination of fewer defenses and massively increased opportunities, but time may tell. Regardless, my point was that I was hoping that this wouldn't be a case where regulatory caution put walls in the way of near-miraculous medicine.
    • Sadly, I think your right. I always hear of amazing breakthroughs like this or cancer cures etc.
      But how often is it actually applied in medicine.
      The real industry will just keep using the stone knives and flint axes they are used to.
  • One problem, the Arf gene tends to make people sniff the ass of people who walk by, leg humping and rawhide chewing.
  • See cell.
    See cell stem.
    Stem, cell, stem!
    See cell lose its differentiation markers when induced by inactivation of Rb in conjunction with ARF, re-enter the cell cycle, proliferate, and then recapitulate differentiation in the blastema.
    Replicate the robust regenerative response typical of urodeles, cell, replicate the robust regenerative response typical of urodeles!

  • >adult mammalian cells can be made to regenerate
    does he mean that regenerate like the newt and completely regrow a limb, or just regenerate tissue that is there but maybe damaged...?

    • by radtea ( 464814 )

      does he mean that regenerate like the newt and completely regrow a limb, or just regenerate tissue that is there but maybe damaged...?

      This work is all in vito, cell line stuff. The purpose is to understand the underlying mechanisms of regrowth regulation based on some inferences from the evolutionary history of mammals relative to reptiles, which the Bible strangely neglects to mention.

      Amazingly, despite the Bible not mentioning this stuff, these scientists have found a gene that is turned off in newts during regeneration which can also result in regeneration when turned off in mammals, almost as if mammals evolved from reptiles by a pro

      • >does he mean that regenerate like the newt and completely regrow a limb, or just regenerate tissue that is there but maybe damaged...?
        Still haven't touched my question, did he mean to regenerate the limb itself fresh like a newt does or does he mean to regenerate tissue that has been damaged, like a cut. This is the question I would like answered, although your mention of the bible does lead me to believe a side line alterior motive to your question, how many times did you read the bible?

  • Scientific American did a good piece of limb regeneration back in April 2008(Regrowing Limbs: Can People Regenerate Body Parts? Preview - []) Key points are that salamanders are best at complete limb regeneration but humans (and many other animals) scar instead of regenerating. However, if we turn off the scar system and prime the regeneration system, we may be able to regenerate whole limbs, too. One of the neat points made in the article
  • Fucking /. (Score:1, Troll)

    by thomst ( 1640045 )

    I submitted this story yesterday - but that was before the NY Times picked it up, so my submission "only" pointed to sites like PhysOrg and PubMed. I guess that just wasn't "newsy" enough for /.'s discriminating editorial staff to bother with.

    But apparently it is now.

    Fucking /. ...

  • With a name like that - how can it fail!

Bell Labs Unix -- Reach out and grep someone.