7 April 2022

How to regenerate lost limbs … in frogs

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The French will be pleased.

American scientists have finally done what supervillain Dr Curt Connors from The Amazing Spider-Man has been threatening to do since the dawn of Marvel: regenerate limbs. 

Except their focus has been on Kermit rather than Godzilla. 

The study frogs were anaesthetised … like this

In a study published in Science Advances, a group from Tufts and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute amputated frog legs, treated the injured leg with a pro-regenerative chemical cocktail and then successfully regrew the limbs back over 18 months. 

The amputated limbs were fitted with silk hydrogel devices, known as the BioDome, which contained the hydrogel loaded with the five pro-regenerative compounds.

The regenerated legs were almost fully functional. They lacked bone, but they did help the frog swim and responded to stimuli.

And they contained a lot of complex anatomical structures, including neurons and several “toes”.

It’s a giant leap from frog to human – but the scientists were pretty thrilled. 

“It’s exciting to see that the drugs we selected were helping to create an almost complete limb,” said Nirosha Murugan, a research affiliate at the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts and first author of the paper. 

“The fact that it required only a brief exposure to the drugs to set in motion a months-long regeneration process suggests that frogs and perhaps other animals may have dormant regenerative capabilities that can be triggered into action.”

Unlike salamanders, starfish, crabs, and lizards, frogs can’t regrow their limbs after metamorphosis from tadpoles into adults.

So long as scientists aren’t trying this with lizard serum, it’s a-okay

If you like frog legs or, as the French say, cuisses de grenouille, flick felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au a crunchy story pitch. Hoppity hop.