Scientists look for clues to regenerate human parts

Researchers at the Salk Institute have turned to a growing favorite in animal studies to learn more about regenerative medicine. A group of scientists at the institute--Scott Stewart, Zhi-Yang Tsun and Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte--have found the genetic switches that zebra fish require to activate some 100 genes involved in the reproduction of its tail.

As described by New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade, when you cut off the tail of one of these fish, the genes are turned on through a series of events that rely on an enzyme called methylase. If methylase is inhibited, they say, the regeneration process is halted.

In people, of course, a wound like that would create only a scar. But if the human body has retained the mechanism to regrow parts, missing only the switch, then scientists would be on their way to growing new limbs.

"It would be wonderful," Dr. Stewart tells the Times, "if we have retained the whole apparatus for regeneration but for the trigger."

- check out the story in the New York Times