Researchers at the MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor have discovered that zebra fish, bichirs and salamanders can all create a lost limb or fin using the same tiny genetic components that have been conserved for millions of years, holding out hope that the knowledge can one day be applied to humans with serious injuries.
Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers Voot Yin and Ben King found that the three species shared the same 10 microRNAs, small bits of genetic material that regulate how genes express themselves.
Science magazine notes that if the microRNAs can be programmed to work like they do in salamanders and fish, humans might be able to improve their ability to heal from serious injuries. The research is still early stage, and the scientists told Science such changes are a long way into the future.
“This research looks across different animals that regenerate and looks at their commonalities and differences,” MDIBL President Kevin Strange told Mainebiz during an aging seminar held late last week. “The microRNAs are highly conserved across the animals. Why can’t our human tissues do that?” He added that the research could also shed light on the aging process.