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Humans 'could re-grow body parts'

tech reviews Updated: May 16, 2012 10:33 IST

The fabled human spare parts kit may someday become a reality, thanks to scientists who claim to have discovered a gene, which could allow re-growing of damaged body parts.

An international team, led by The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, has found that the p21 gene could block the healing power still enjoyed by some creatures like amphibians, but lost through evolution to all other animals. By turning off p21, the process can be miraculously switched back on.

In their research, the scientists found that mice lacking the p21 gene gain the ability to regenerate lost or damaged tissue. Unlike typical mammals, which heal wounds by forming a scar, these animals begin by forming a blastema, a structure associated with rapid cell growth.

According to them, the loss of p21 causes the cells of these mice to behave more like regenerating embryonic stem cells rather than adult mammalian cells. This means they act as if they creating rather thane mending the body.

They turned off the gene in mice, which had damaged ears and they re-grew them. While they say it is early days, there is nothing theoretically different about applying the same process to humans, The Daily Telegraph reported.