Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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On a Limb
27 December 2016

On a Limb

Some animals have the impressive ability to regenerate whole limbs after injury. For thousands of years humans have watched in awe, wondering ‘why don’t we do that?’ and ‘could we?’ Here researchers take a step towards answering these questions by watching how the amputated leg of a crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis regenerates. The leg’s red-coloured exoskeleton highlights the shape of the leg stump six days after the tip was cut off. An advanced microscope peers inside the transparent creature. But in order to watch over an entire week, the leg must be stuck to a microscopy slide, keeping its cells in focus while the animal wriggles and feeds. Researchers were rewarded with a video of the step-by-step process that completely rebuilds the leg tissue. Understanding these steps is the next challenge, but for now a brand new leg tip, shown bunched up at the top of the exoskeleton, prepares to stretch out.

Written by John Ankers

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