Bioelectric Signals Utilized to Trigger Formation of New Organs

ScienceDaily (December 7, 2011) ? Using genetic manipulation of membrane voltage in Xenopus (frog) embryos, biologists at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences were able to cause tadpoles to grow eyes outside of the head area. The researchers achieved most surprising results when they manipulated membrane voltage of cells in the tadpole’s back and tail, well outside of where the eyes could normally form. “The hypothesis is that for every structure in the body there is a specific membrane voltage range that drives organogenesis,” said Pai. “These were cells in regions that were never thought to be able to form eyes. This suggests that cells from anywhere in the body can be driven to form an eye.”

These findings break new ground in the field of biomedicine because they identify an entirely new control mechanism that can be capitalized upon to induce the formation of complex organs for transplantation or regenerative medicine applications, according to Michael Levin, Ph.D., professor of biology and director of the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences.

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This study is interesting because it could lead to the ability to regrow lost limbs or damaged organs. The problem is it does not get around Hayflick’s limit / telomere loss so would likely not be entirely effective in adults, especially if they are older. So a large supply of young adult stem cells is needed.

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