Japanese scientists from Kyoto University have in the journal Regeneration published a paper titled “Functional joint regeneration is achieved using reintegration mechanism in Xenopus laevis,” detailing the successful regeneration of functional joints in frogs.
The ultimate aim of the researchers is to help amputated patients regrow organs and limbs in the future, maybe after the successful feat has been performed in mammals.
"We expect that by applying this approach to other animals, we may also achieve functional joint regeneration in mammals, including humans, in the future," said Kyoto University study author Kiyokazu Agata.
Newts are known to naturally regrow lost limbs, and frogs are regarded as the link between newts and mammals. Frogs are able to regenerate spikes, the cartilage rods emanating from any disfigured area, but these lack joints and therefore cannot bend like the original limb that is lost.
For a joint to be functional, there must be an integration of tissues which are “two opposing skeletal elements forming an interlocking structure, and muscles which insert into skeletal tissues via tendons across joints.” Frogs cannot reconnect these tissues, but newts can.
Considering the fact that a frog’s limb removed at the elbow joint requires a connection or interaction between the remaining part and the regenerated tissues, this impacts on the regrown elbow and it eventually looks very alike to the lost part. Scientists call this interaction a “mechanism reintegration.”
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"As a next step we would like to attempt functional joint regeneration in mice by activating the reintegration mechanism," said Agata, adding that if the operation becomes successful with mammals, then there is no reason why it shouldn’t be in humans.