SCIENTISTS have created a “miracle mouse” that can regenerate amputated limbs or badly damaged organs, making it able to recover from injuries that would kill or permanently disable normal animals.There's still so much we just don't know about the way our bodies work. But if, as seems likely, all mammals have the potential capability to revert specialised cells back to stem cells, then have the stem cells multiply and then re-specialise into whatever is needed, then that has enormous (I won't say enormouse) implications for the treatment of many illnesses. And if somehow we can repair the telomeres of the stem cells so they don't degrade as they multiply, then the accumulated damage caused by aging can be prevented, and reversed.
The experimental animal is unique among mammals in its ability to regrow its heart, toes, joints and tail.
The researchers have also found that when cells from the test mouse are injected into ordinary mice, they too acquire the ability to regenerate.
The discoveries raise the prospect that humans could one day be given the ability to regenerate lost or damaged organs, opening up a new era in medicine.
Details of the research will be presented next week at a scientific conference on ageing, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, at Cambridge University. Ellen Heber-Katz, professor of immunology at the Wistar Institute, an American biomedical research centre, says that the ability of mice at her laboratory to regenerate appears to be controlled by about a dozen genes.
She is still researching their exact functions, but it seems almost certain that humans have comparable genes.
The researchers suspect that the same genes could confer greater longevity and are measuring the animals’ survival rate. The mice are, however, only 18 months old and the normal lifespan is two years so it is too early to reach conclusions.
Immortality? Nope. But if you can hold out for another 50 years, it's just possible you may be able to gain a few centuries after that. Not certain, but not impossible either.