In a very recent article published on the website for the magazine Scientific American entitled “How to Regrow a Head – A single gene switch makes worms regenerate their whole bodies from their tails” it seems that scientists have figure out how to potentially increase the regenerative ability of animals by knocking out certain genes that have been regulating the Wnt and Beta-Catenin Pathway.
Now, we have researched and studied both the Wnt and the Beta-Catenin Pathway just to learn much more about molecular biology and biology. Post were written…
There was also some research done on the PI3K and AKT pathway in the post “The PI3K, AKT And mTOR Signaling Pathway”
The facts are that for most people who have ever taken a molecular biology class, or done some graduate level work on studying cells, they would be quite familiar with the Wnt-Beta-Catenin pathway and the PI3K-Akt pathway. These pathways are some of the most well known and extensively studies extracellular signaling pathways in cells.
For the article itself, I would guess that the news is not a big shocker for anyone who has been studying the Wnt- Beta-Catenin pathways for a while, but for people who are not in the field, it might seem crazy and be new information. From the article, here is a recap of what these genes and signaling pathways do…
…Wnt genes, which code for a series of enzymes that relay information from outside the cell to the nucleus, eventually producing proteins called β-catenins, which regulate gene expression…
Genes create a type of protein known as enzymes which help chemical reactions and biological process occur in cells. For the Wnt genes, they create a type of enzyme that will going to affect how signals and kinases that come to the surface of the cell from the outside wil do to the stuff inside the outer membrance. The end result is another type of protein known as Beta-Catenin, which regulates what types of genes are expressed.
In the experiments the researchers wanted to find out if a lack of Wnt gene expression was responsible for the poorer regenerative abilities in particular worm species. What they found was that “… in wounds that did regrow heads, genes coding for a series of enzymes involved in the Wnt pathway had their expression turned up”
Now, the gene that causes the regenerative properties seem to be modulate/controlled by other types of proteins. If these other proteins are themselves inhibited, then the regenerative ability of the animal beng studied should increase. “…both teams found that by suppressing a gene that regulated Wnt function in their flatworms, they could get chunks of the normally non-regenerative tissue to grow fully functional heads”
There was actually three studies, three experiments, three groups of researchers, and three papers submitted to whatever prestigious journal is in the field of their expertise. The 3rd team located in Japan, noted that they found out that another signaling pathway, the extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) pathway also had a function in regenerative abilities.
One of the scientists “Umesono suggests that the effects of ERK proteins and Wnt proteins counteract each other. If the Wnt pathway dominates then it signals tail growth, but if ERK suppresses its influence then heads can form”
I have also done some research on the ERK pathway in the post “The Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase, MAPK And Extracellular-Signal-Regulated Kinases, ERK pathway”
These proteins created just make sure certain genes are either turned on or off, and the rate at which expression does (or does not occur).
Implications For Body Part Regeneration
Since the Wnt, Beta-Catenin, and ERK pathway is already understood quite well, it would not be too hard to try to knockout the genes that controls the expression of the pathway, and create people with altered genomes which allow them to heal body wounds much faster and more efficiently than the regular human.
Implication For Height Increase
If we can get our own bodies to develop regenerative abilities through genetic engineering, it would be very easy to increase our height. All that is needed to be done to get a new layer of growth plate cartilage is to make a distraction in the bone, and the wound would start to form blastema which can then be controlled using differentiation modulators into the cartilage that is needed.