Limb regeneration might jump from science fiction to science fact in 10 years or less.
Science has been interested in regrowing lost limbs for some time now, but recent advances in our understanding of the regenerative properties of animals like salamanders, zebrafish, mice and flatworms have significantly sped up the clock.
"Fifteen years ago we would have said 50 years, but it could be as soon as 10 years from now," said Ken Poss, a cell biologist at Duke University.
Cracking the secret genetic code to limb regeneration would indeed be awesome, and the applications stretch farther than you'd think. If you could regrow a faulty of lost organ in your body, there'd no longer be any need for transplant lists, organ donors and long waits. Furthermore, there'd be limited or no worry of transplant rejection or infection.
Additionally, regrowing limbs lost in accidents or even by wounded soldiers could, hypothetically, reduce healthcare and physical rehabilitation costs, not to mention the emotional relief it would provide patients grappling the loss of a limb. Like we said, the possibilities are endless.
But some scientists are saying don't get too excited yet.
"We can envision using the knowledge to promote organs or tissue to grow," said Elly Tanaka, at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. However, "it's dangerous to say, 'Yes, we expect to regenerate a limb."
Of course, there's always the risk of:
... but we're optimists.
What do you think? Would you rather have a limb regenerated, or a robot replacement?