BAR HARBOR, MAINE – Though the ability to grow a new limb after injury or new heart muscle after a heart attack may seem like science fiction, regenerative biology may be closer than we think to achieving this goal. The key may lie with scarring, which appears to function as a barrier to regeneration in humans.
In a Jan. 14 science café entitled “Unlocking the Potential for Repair and Regeneration of Human Limbs, Hearts, Brains and Other Organs,” James Godwin, Ph.D., who studies regeneration in salamanders, will talk about how the potential for humans to achieve “salamander-like” regenerative capabilities could transform medicine.
Godwin, who is a scientist at the MDI Biological Laboratory, will also discuss some key areas that are under investigation in regenerative biology and the path to the development of clinical therapies to promote scar-free regeneration and repair in humans.
The café, which is the inaugural event of the MDI Biological Laboratory’s 2019 science café series, will be held at 5 p.m. in the Kinne Library at the MDI Biological Laboratory at 159 Old Bar Harbor Road in Bar Harbor.
“The salamander can faithfully repair damaged organs or replace a missing body part such as a limb, throughout its life,” Godwin said. “In contrast, humans and mice fail to replace damaged limbs or effectively heal other tissues without scarring, which reduces the ability of organs to function normally and can be fatal to organs such as the heart.”
By studying the advanced wound repair process in salamanders — in particular a type of Mexican salamander called the axolotl that is nature’s champion of regeneration — Godwin has made significant progress toward understanding the potential barriers to human regeneration and how they may be overcome.
“The extraordinary incidence of death and disability from heart disease, for example, is directly attributable to scarring,” Godwin explains. “If humans could get over the scarring hurdle in the same way that salamanders do, the system that blocks regeneration in humans could potentially be broken.”
In addition to regenerating heart tissue following a heart attack, the ability to unlock the dormant capabilities for regeneration in humans through the suppression of scarring has potential applications for the regeneration of tissues and organs lost to traumatic injury, surgery and other diseases, Godwin said.
His findings are a testament to the MDI Biological Laboratory’s unique research approach, which is focused on studying regeneration in a diverse range of highly regenerative animal models with the goal of gaining insight into how to trigger dormant genetic pathways for regeneration in humans.
MDI Science Cafés are offered in fulfillment of the MDI Biological Laboratory’s mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The popular events offer a chance to hear directly from speakers about trends in science. Short presentations delivered in everyday language are followed by lively, informal discussion.
For more information on the MDI Biological Laboratory’s science café series, please visit mdibl.org/events/ or call 207-288-3147.
About the MDI Biological Laboratory
We are pioneering new approaches to regenerative medicine focused on developing drugs that slow age-related degenerative diseases and activate our natural ability to heal. Our unique approach has identified potential therapies that could revolutionize the treatment of heart disease, muscular dystrophy and more. Through the Maine Center for Biomedical Innovation, we are preparing students for 21st century careers and equipping entrepreneurs with the knowledge, skills and resources needed to turn discoveries into applications that improve human health and well-being. For more information, please visit mdibl.org.