A new study, using mice as test subjects, has revealed that stem cells could help amputees regrow their missing fingers and toes; the researchers decided to carry out the study to try and determine why stem cells are so important in the regeneration process.
The knowledge of this probably isn’t all too surprising given the fact that stem cells helped restore a man’s vision recently, however, the findings published in Nature, are still a fascinating read and reveal just how amazing stem cells really are.
To better understand the regrowth process, the scientist took two groups of mice and conducted toe amputations on them, they then separated the mice into one ‘normal’ group and one controlled group.
Unlike the mice left to naturally ‘repair’ their amputations, the control group had drugs introduced that prevented the chemical signals, needed for the regrowth process, from making the new nail cells develop.
They found that, five weeks after the amputations, the normal mice that had been unaffected by drugs had regrown their toes and toenails, while the drug controlled mice failed to show any signs of regeneration, therefore demonstrating how significant stem cells are to regeneration.
In addition to this experiment, another was performed which involved the removal of nerves before the mice had their toe amputations, which the scientists hoped would show how difficult the regrowth process would be if the nerves had been damaged prior.
In a similar result to the mice that had been controlled in the first test, these mice had become significantly impaired and therefore unable to successfully regenerate their missing toes.
The researchers, after combining and correlating both set of results, have concluded that stem cells are crucial if an amputee wishes to regrow their lost digits, which in turn should help scientists to create better amputation treatments than those already available.
Although researchers have known for sometime that mammals can regrow the very tips of their fingers and toes, it has traditionally been down to where the amputation took place to determine whether the part can be regrown or not.
Therefore, if the digit was amputated below the nail no regrowth would take place, however, if the nail was still intact regrowth would remain possible.
That being said, it seems unlikely that stem cells would be able to regrow missing parts, such as penises, if a man suffered an unfortunate and unexpected amputation.
Therefore, as amazing as this new discovery is, it’s still wise to keep your fingers and toes (and everything else) protected as much as possible – although stem cells obviously help, it’s unlikely that anyone is in a rush to test it out for themselves.
[Image via now.msn]