Could This Man Hold the Secret to Human Regeneration?
J Thoendell stashed this in Science
Levin thinks that the key to regeneration — the key to pattern, to shape — may be found in the electrical signals that are transmitted among all our cells, much like the ones and zeros that zip around in a computer’s hard drive. Manipulating these signals has already allowed Levin to produce results more suited to an X-Men comic than a scientific journal, including the creation of four-headed flatworms. Over the course of the next year, he will begin experiments that could make human regeneration a reality.
Levin’s work is little known, perhaps because so many scientists believe that the key to human regeneration — if such a thing exists — lies in studies of genetics and stem cells. Such studies have produced incredible results: a patient’s windpipe, repaired in a lab; a segment of functional bladder, fashioned on an artificial lattice. These achievements offer the hope that a patient will one day be able to grow a new organ from her own cells, instead of waiting for someone else’s misfortune to be her good luck.
But none of these accomplishments involve recreating the complex organs and limbs that our bodies produce naturally. Scientists can’t command the cells at an amputated elbow to generate a limb replete with muscles, tendons, bone, cartilage, blood vessels. No one has found the signal that gives the command: “Become an arm.”