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Clues from jellyfish for coaxing tissue regeneration

09 February 2022

Jelly Mould

Watching injured moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) off the coast of Long Beach, California researchers noticed something strange. While most rearranged their limbs as they healed – searching for the symmetry they need to move and feed – a few showed early signs of growing replacement arms. The team spent three years testing different chemicals aiming to coax this regeneration in the lab. They found a combination of nutrients and insulin help amputated A. aurita to shape new arms (bottom right here). The new limbs ‘pulse’ in time with the existing arms, hinting at a rebuilt neuromuscular network. Researchers believe that a specific energy boost during healing may help some organisms 'switch on' regeneration – similar chemical supplements encouraged partial regeneration in (some) injured fruit flies and mice. Perhaps there is a specific combination of genes and chemicals – of nature and nurture – that may one day help humans to heal in new ways.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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