Scientists at Harvard University have discovered the DNA switch to the genes that allow animals such as geckos and salamanders to regrow lost limbs, The Telegraph reports.
Scientists found a section of non-coding or “junk” DNA that acts as a switch for a “master control gene” that’s called early growth response or EGR, which triggers regeneration.
“We were able to decrease the activity of this gene and we found that if you don't have EGR, nothing happens," Dr. Mansi Srivastava, Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, told the newspaper.
“The animals just can't regenerate,” she added. “All those downstream genes won't turn on, so the other switches don't work, and the whole house goes dark, basically.”
Scientists conducted research on three-banded panther worms, and found that the DNA in their cells begins to unfold during regeneration. Humans also carry EGR, and it’s produced when the body is under stress, though it doesn’t cause large-scale regeneration.
“Only about two percent of the genome makes things like proteins," said post-doctoral student Andrew Gehrke. “We wanted to know: What is the other 98 percent of the genome doing during whole-body regeneration?
Srivastava said, “The question is: If humans can turn on EGR, and not only turn it on, but do it when our cells are injured, why can't we regenerate?"
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