A tiny sea creature may hold the key to cracking the code of regenerative medicine.
In a new study from the University of Florida, a group of scientists discovered that the genes in the starlet sea anemone had a striking similarity to the genes that form the human heart. Furthermore, they found that the sea anemone had a superpower-like ability to regenerate into new starlets after they were sliced into tiny pieces.
Regeneris Medical, a provider of research-level regenerative treatment for different conditions, believes that discoveries in regenerative medicine hold promise as a prospective source of improvement in cardiac and pulmonary conditions. The new study could pave the way to growing back human heart tissue.
Sea Anemone Regeneration Could Allow for Muscle Regeneration in Humans
Starlet sea anemones are creatures without hearts or muscles. They have stinging cells on their skin and a tube-shaped gut. In previous studies, scientists have discovered that the sea creature could also help reverse hearing loss.
While analyzing the curious creature's “heart genes,” the scientists noticed a difference in the way their genes interact with each other, shedding light on the ability of a sea anemone to regenerate.
The Lack of “Lockdown Loops” in Sea Creatures
Unlike human genes, the researchers note that sea anemones do not have a “lockdown loop” — a term that describes the set of instructions that prevent a gene from changing into something else. Animals with lockdown loops on their genes cannot grow new parts or use those cells for other functions. On that note, it allows for same-cell regeneration, where one cell cannot turn into any other type of cell.
Teaching Human Muscles to Grow Back Damaged Tissue
The finding of the study holds promise for the treatment of conditions like heart disease. With further research, scientists could coax muscles into regenerating new types of cells, such as increased heart cells. In that way, humans could more easily regenerate organs or body parts without surgical treatment.
Scientists hope that they can discover how humans can act like the sea anemone and grow back damaged tissue. When that happens, treatment for conditions like cardiac conditions could be a lot easier to manage.