UC Irvine researchers discover new technique for analyzing crucial cell activity in limb regeneration

Development of Method to Study the Function of Genes That Trigger New Limb Growth in Salamanders May Yield Clues for Potential Human Therapies

Note to editors: Images are available at: www.communications.uci.edu/00releases/016fig1.html

Irvine, Calif. -- Researchers at UC Irvine have developed an effective method of studying the function of the specific genes necessary for limb regeneration in salamanders, a finding that may ultimately provide key information leading to new approaches for the treatment of such ailments as spinal cord injury, deep wounds and burns.

This discovery allows researchers for the first time to isolate and study cell activity at the site of regeneration in this amphibian animal, the only vertebrate life form that can grow back lost limbs. Susan V. Bryant, David M. Gardiner and Stphane Roy of UCI's Department of Developmental and Cell Biology found that by using a laboratory-altered version of a cowpox virus--called a vaccinia virus--as a carrier, they were able to introduce molecules into the cells where regeneration occurs and initiate specific gene functions. Their findings appear in the Feb. 15 issue of Developmental Biology.

Although salamander studies have yielded much information on how limbs regenerate, researchers had been limited in their ability to analyze the function of the specific genes necessary for regeneration. By understanding the process of regeneration, researchers may ultimately find new approaches and therapies for replacing and repairing damaged or diseased parts of the human body.

"Before, we were in the dark trying to understand the function of genes in regeneration," Bryant said. "By understanding which genes do what in limb regeneration, it will allow us to look at why animals can't regenerate, and it puts us on the path to design ways to stimulate regeneration

Contact: Tom Vasich
University of California - Irvine

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