Worm with genes similar to humans able to regrow limbs

A worm that shares a close genetic relationship with humans has been found to be able to regenerate body parts—even vital ones—after being cut.

As a news release by the University of Washington reports, the research centers around the acorn worm which is linked to chordates, an animal phylum that also includes vertebrates like humans.

According to the release, "The new study finds that when an acorn worm...is cut in half, it regrows head or tail parts on each opposite end in perfect proportion to the existing half."

Photos posted online show one worm with its tail end snipped and then another head starting to grow in its place just days later.

One of the paper's authors, Billie Swalla, is quoted as saying, "...you can't tell a regenerated animal from one that has never been cut."

The release notes the researchers, "...suspect that a 'master control' gene or set of genes is responsible for activating a pattern of genetic activity that promotes regrowth, because once regeneration begins, the same pattern unfolds in every worm."

The hope is to identify and understand these mechanisms in order to potentially explore such applications in humans.

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