Humans can regrow cartilage through salamander-like ability

Human beings have a “salamander-like” ability to regrow damaged cartilage. This is according to a study that was published in the journal called Science Advances.

Based on a press released by Duke Health, the study has discovered that cartilage in human joints can repair itself through a process that is similar to the ones used by salamanders and zebrafish.

“We believe that an understanding of this “‘salamander-like” regenerative capacity in humans, and the critically missing components of this regulatory circuit, could provide the foundation for new approaches to repair joint tissues and possibly whole human limbs,” said a senior author of the study from the departments of Medicine, Pathology and Orthopedic Surgery at Duke, Virginia Byers Kraus.

The findings from the study about human beings and their ability to regrow cartilage could lead to the discovery of new treatments for joint diseases and injuries. It could also help with human limb regeneration in the future.

In the study, researchers found out that animals that have limb regeneration capabilities have a type of molecule called microRNA. This molecule aids in regulating joint tissue repair. They also learned that human beings are also using the same molecules. However, the cartilage repair mechanism depends on the body parts.

“We were excited to learn that the regulators of regeneration in the salamander limb appear to also be the controllers of joint tissue repair in the human limb. We call it our inner salamander’ capacity,” said Duke professor and researcher Ming-Feng Hsueh.

Similar to animals like the salamander, African freshwater fish, and other creatures with limb regeneration capabilities, the microRNA is highest in some parts of the body like the ankles. They are lower in the hips and knees.

“In human cartilage, these molecules were present at a high level in human ankle cartilage, intermediate in knees and low in hips and strongly related to the “‘age” or the amount of chemical modifications of proteins at the three joint sites,” Kraus shared.

The activity level of the microRNA and the age of the cartilage are factors in the healing speed of injuries. This explains why ankle injuries can heal faster than those injuries sustained on the knees and hips.

Human beings have exhibited some regenerative capabilities. However, scientists thought that these capabilities had their limits. With the study’s findings, it would be able to refute the belief that the human body won’t be able to counteract cumulative damage to the joints.

The authors of the study are now looking at figuring out what regulators salamanders have that human beings do not possess. If they can identify what these missing components are, they might be able to mix it with the microRNA and come up with some sort of molecular cocktail that could lead to the regeneration of limbs.

“We believe that an understanding of this ‘salamander-like’ regenerative capacity in humans, and the critically missing components of this regulatory circuit, could provide the foundation for new approaches to repair joint tissues and possibly whole human limbs,” adds Kraus.

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