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Removing a barrier to regrowing organs

Depleting cancer-protective proteins allows mammalian cells to regenerate

Disabling an evolutionary backup plan for protecting against cancer could be part of a future means to regrow lost limbs or regenerate damaged organs.

A protein called ARF, which acts as a fail-safe mechanism to protect against cancer, also prevents regeneration in mammals, a study published August 6 in Cell Stem Cell suggests. ARF backs up Rb, an important anticancer protein, by limiting the ability of mature cells to divide and replicate. But researchers in California have discovered that blocking ARF and Rb allowed mature muscle cells taken from mice to proliferate, something the cells normally cannot do.

The discovery is an important step in learning why mammals, including people, can’t regrow or replace lost limbs and organs the way animals such as salamanders and zebrafish can. Such work may one day lead to new treatments for injuries.

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