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Limb Regeneration Exists Innately In All Vertebrates – Says Researc

certain animals have lost their ability to regenerate limbs during evolution, conserved genetic machinery may still be present, and can be put to work again," he said. Previously, scientists believed that once stem cells turned into muscles, bone or any other type of cells, that was their fate for life – and if those cells were injured, they didn't regenerate, but grew scar tissue.

Manipulating Wnt signaling in humans is, of course, not possible at this point, Belmonte says, but hopes that these findings may eventually offer insights into current research examining the ability of stem cells to build new human body tissues and parts. For example, he said Wnt signaling may push mature cells go back in time and "dedifferentiate" into stem-like cells, in order to be able to then differentiate once more, producing all of the different tissues needed to build a limb.

"This is the reverse of how we currently are thinking of using stem cells therapeutically, so understanding this process could be very illuminating," he says. "It could be that we could use the Wnt signaling pathway to dedifferentiate cells inside a body at the site of a limb injury, and have them carry out the job of building a new structure."

Members of the Wnt gene family (for "wingless," originally discovered in fruit flies) are known to play a role in cell proliferative processes, like fetal growth and cancer development, and Belmonte's lab has characterized the crucial role of Wnt signaling in limb growth. In 1995, the Salk researchers were first to demonstrate that they could induce the growth of extra limbs in embryonic chicks, and in 2001, they found that the Wnt signaling system played a critical role in triggering both normal and abnormal limb growth.

The current study was designed to see if Wnt signaling also was involved in the regeneration of limbs and included three groups of vertebrates: zebrafish and salamanders, which can regenerate limbs throughout
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