A team of researchers have successfully regrown the legs a group of frogs.
The technique is a significant advance for regenerative medicine and a step forward in – one day – helping people who have lost limbs.
Their strategy focused on triggering dormant anatomical patterning programs in the frogs, rather than micromanaging complex growth. The technique focused on trigging existing processes using information all adult animals already had to regrow their body structures.
Super excited to see this come out: https://t.co/6Cfe4LfhHL @msahsorin, @kaplan_lorax, and many others. Key points: 1) Just 24 hour stimulation with our MDT (= drugs + bioreactor) causes >1 year of leg growth. 2) very large, *adult* Xenopus (not just froglets/juveniles) 1/n
— Michael Levin (@drmichaellevin) January 26, 2022
The team gave African clawed frogs, who do not have the ability to naturally regenerate limbs, a five-drug cocktail across a 24 hour period, the kick-started a process that saw the frogs regrow functional legs over the next 18 months.
The treatment is impressive because the frogs were only given a very brief exposure to the drugs and hints that frogs and other animals could have dormant regenerative capabilities.
The team used 115 adult African clawed frogs in their experiment, amputating a limb from each frog then splitting them into three groups. One group had a full treatment, one had partial treatment and one acted as a control with no treatment.
The team applied the drug cocktail using a ‘BioDome’ ( a silicon cap that wrapped around the wound that used a silk protein gel to deliver the drugs).
The cocktail had five drugs in it – one focused on reducing inflammation, encouraging growth of nerve, fibre, muscle and blood vessels.
The team believe that the ‘BioDome’ worked against frogs natural response to close off the stump and encourage the regenerative process.
However, whilst the research is extremely promising, with the new limbs responded to stimuli, the team stressed they were not perfect.
The team hope that their study has brought scientists a step closer to the goal of regenerative medicine. Their next step will be looking at how the treatment could be used on mammals.