New Device Helps Frogs Regenerate Their Legs

Posted: Nov 8 2018, 11:17am CST | by , Updated: Nov 8 2018, 11:19am CST, in Latest Science News


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New Device Helps Frogs Regenerate their Legs
Credit: Celia Herrera-Rincon/Tufts University

The breakthrough can improve our understanding of regeneration and help advance treatment of amputation injuries.

Researchers have developed a device that can trigger partial limb regeneration in adult frogs by activating tissue repair mechanism, a breakthrough that may one day lead to the regrowth of tissues in humans after surgical removal or amputation.

“At best, adult frogs normally grow back only a featureless, thin, cartilaginous spike,” said Michael Levin, developmental biologist at Tufts University. “Our procedure induced a regenerative response they normally never have, which resulted in bigger, more structured appendages. The bioreactor device triggered very complex downstream outcomes that bioengineers cannot yet micromanage directly.”

Researchers have long been interested in 3-D printing for tissue regeneration and wound repair. In the latest effort, they 3-D printed the bioreactor out of silicon and added progesterone, a hormone that has been shown to promote nerve, blood vessel and bone tissue repair. Researchers then delivered the progesterone to adult aquatic African clawed frogs and removed the device after a 24-hour period.

African clawed frogs or Xenopus laevis is an ideal model for studying tissue regrowth because of their highly regenerative traits. When researchers looked at the frogs at different time points over nine months, they noticed that the device allowed the creature to partially regenerate its hindlimbs. Instead of a typical spike-like structure, the bioreactor treatment resulted in a paddle-like formation closer to a fully formed limb. Further understanding of this process could help advance treatment of tissues that are lost, damaged or non- functional as a result of injury, birth defect, disease, aging and organ failure.

“The bioreactor device created a supportive environment for the wound where the tissue could grow as it did during embryogenesis,” said Levin. “A very brief application of bioreactor and its payload triggered months of tissue growth and patterning.”

RNA sequencing further revealed that the device had altered the gene expression in cells at the amputation site and led to the thicker limbs with more developed bones, innervation and vascularization. Researchers also noticed that the progesterone-treated frogs could swim more like frogs with original limbs.

“We looked at progesterone because it showed promise for promoting nerve repair and regeneration,” said lead author of the study Celia Herrera-Rincon. “It also modulates the immune response to promote healing, and triggers the re-growth of blood vessels and bone.”

Frogs are among those few animals that are capable of regeneration. By studying how frogs regenerate tissue, researchers can better understand the repair or regrowth of tissues in humans.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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