Acorn Worm Raises Hope For Regeneration In Humans

Posted: Nov 29 2016, 11:00am CST | by , Updated: Nov 29 2016, 8:55pm CST , in Latest Science News


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Acorn Worm Raises Hope for Regeneration in Humans
An intact, live acorn worm. The head is on the far left, and the worm will be cut in the middle. Credit: Shawn Luttrell/University of Washington
  • Acorn worms regrow body parts, giving us hope to regenerate our bodies

According to new research on acorn worms, the regeneration of human body parts will be possible in future.

Acorn worms are called human’s nearest invertebrate relatives, and recent research on them shows that they have genes similar to humans. The worms live in deep sand near coral reefs, but they have a certain relationship with chordates that shows they are genetically similar to human bodies.

The research report was published in Development Dynamics at University of Washington. The report says that acorn worms have genetic ability to regrow important body parts, like nervous system, head, and some internal organs. According to research scientists, this is possible to regrow limbs in us through genetic manipulation.

The human body has a huge amount of genes of which thousands are similar to acorn worms. The worms use these genes to recover their structures, as reported by Shawn Luttrell, who is a UW biology PhD student. According to Shawn, if we discover how acorn worms regenerate their nervous system, we would be able to regenerate human nervous system.

The research also shows that when an acorn worm is cut in two parts, it regrows its tail and head in its existing parts. Scientists say that the worms grow mouthes within 3 to 4 days after they are cut, and get their heart and kidney back within 5 to 10 days.

Eventually, after 15 days the worms regrow a new neural tube. That neural tube in acorn worms is just like our brain, and spinal cord. So, can you imagine if somebody cuts your body in half, and you would regrow your head in the bottom half and legs in the top half.

The regeneration process in acorn worms have made them immortal, as described by Billie Swalla who is senior author, and UW Professor of biology, and Director at Friday Harbor Laboratories.

The amazing thing about this regeneration is that, the new part is just like existing worm having same proportion and tissues. Both parts are so similar that you can’t differentiate them.

The scientists found that, this regeneration occurs due to certain types of genes which are also present in our bodies. These types of genes are present in several other animals, including fish and amphibians.

Right now humans are only able to regenerate some skin cells, and body organs, but we can’t regenerate entire body parts, and this is perhaps because our bodies are larger than worms.

Scientists are trying to discover the regenerating cells that worms use to recover body parts. The worms either use stem cells for regrowth or they order same old cells to regrow new parts.

The findings of this study got published in the journal Developmental Dynamics.

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