The ability to regrow cartilage in human, found in a new study, is believed to be able to provide the foundation for new approaches to repair joint tissues, and possibly whole human limbs, according to researchers at Duke Health.
Similar to salamanders
The way humans repair and regenerate their cartilage in the joints is similar to how salamanders and other creatures regrow their lost limbs and tails. Molecules called microRNA play a vital role in the repairing process.
For salamanders, zebrafish, African freshwater fish and lizards, microRNA helps them regenerate their limbs, fins, and tails. The similar molecules are found in human bodies by researchers.
The discovery encourages scientists that “the regulators of regeneration in the salamander limb appear to also be the controllers of joint tissue repair in the human limb”. They refer the ability to the “inner salamander” capacity.
Application of microRNA
The researchers said microRNAs could be developed as treatments to prevent, slow, or even reverse arthritis.
It’s possible to fully regenerate the degenerated cartilage of an arthritic joint using the regulators. If researchers can find the missing regulators in humans compared with salamanders, we might even be able to add the missing components back to develop a way to regenerate part or all of an injured human limb.
Although this sounds far from us, researchers believe this can be achieved someday. They also believe the fundamental mechanism of repair can be applied to many tissues other than cartilage.
The research is really good news for those suffering from arthritis, especially people over 60. Knee pain related to osteoarthritis is the most common disease of the knee joint and over 10% of Americans over 60 are experiencing it. With the new discovery first developed and applied to human treatment, it’s possible for old people to receive young knees again.
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