Bioreactor Helps Legless Frogs Get Their Jump Back

Legless frogs, they're everywhere. Now, though, a Tufts team of human scientists is trying to make it up to them with partial hindlimb regeneration. They should put it on Kickstarter (heh).


(Regeneration tech takes a leap forward)

Researchers led by Tufts University biologists and engineers have found that delivering progesterone to an amputation injury site can induce the regeneration of limbs in otherwise non-regenerative adult frogs—a discovery that furthers understanding of regeneration and could help advance treatment of amputation injuries. The researchers created a wearable bioreactor attached to the wound site to deliver the progesterone locally for a 24-hour period and observed that it had a lasting beneficial effect on tissue regrowth, allowing the frogs to partially regenerate their hind-limbs. A mere 24 hour of exposure led to 9 months of changes in gene expression, innervation, and patterned growth. The finding, published today in Cell Reports, suggests the drug-device combination could be a new model for systematically testing and deploying therapeutic cocktails that could induce regeneration in non-regenerative species...

The wearable bioreactor delivering the progesterone was developed in the laboratory of David Kaplan, Ph.D, Stern Family Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tufts’ School of Engineering and director of the Initiative for Neural Science, Disease & Engineering at Tufts. The device contains a silk protein-based hydrogel which is applied directly to the wound and is capable of delivering small molecule compounds to the site. Future experiments will explore additional factors that can enhance or improve upon the effects of progesterone.

Apparently, it really kind of works.

Science fiction authors love this idea, because their protagonists can take an incredible amount of damage, and still heal. Like Johnny Rico, in the movie version of Robert Heinlein's classic Starship Troopers:

I'd also call out the Gobathian from Clifford Simak's wonderful 1961 novel Time is the Simplest Thing.

And, now that I think about it, Star Wars technology included the bacta tank for wound healing.


(Star Wars bacta tank)

Via Tufts; thanks to Winchell Chung (@nyrath) of Atomic Rockets, the hard sf writer's tech support.

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