Chinese scientists use stem cell technology to grow antlers on MICE in breakthrough that could one day allow people to regrow lost limbs
- Deer can regrow their antlers every year thanks to stem cells at their base
- These transform into ‘blastema’ cells, which grow into bone and antlers cartilage
- Scientists grew antler-like stumps on mice by transplanting the blastema cells
Scientists have succeeded in growing antler-like structures on the foreheads of mice by transplanting stem cells from deer.
Deer antlers fall off and grow back every year – in the spring they will lengthen at a rate of about an inch per day.
In their new study, researchers at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi’an, China, identified the cells responsible for this regrowth.
Just 45 days after transplanting these cells onto the foreheads of hairless lab mice, they began growing small stumps.
The team hopes that this procedure could one day be used to help restore bone or cartilage in humans — or even regrow lost limbs.
Scientists have succeeded in growing antler-like structures on the foreheads of mice by transplanting stem cells from deer. They hope this procedure could be used to help repair bones or cartilage in humans or regrow lost limbs
Just 45 days after transplanting regenerating blastema cells onto the foreheads of hairless lab mice, they started growing tiny stumps (pictured)
Deer antlers are the only mammalian body part that regenerates each year and are among the fastest growing living tissues found in nature.
How do deer regrow their antlers?
After a creature loses a limb, it creates a population of cells called the ‘blastema’ that can eventually transform into cells that regrow that limb.
Deer are known to possess blastema cells, as they form antler tissue and bones after shedding their old antlers.
The new study found that mesenchymal cells — a type of stem cell — that exist in outgrowths on their skulls form blastema cells about five days after shedding.
Five days later, these blastema cells turned into cartilage and bone cells.
After some animals lose a limb, a population of cells called “blastema” develops that can eventually transform into cells that regrow that limb.
Deer possess blastema cells that reform the antler tissue and bone after molting.
In 2020, another team of scientists discovered they could grow stumps on the heads of mice inserting a piece of deer antler tissue under their forehead skin.
But for the new study, published in Scienceresearchers wanted to identify the specific blastema cells in the tissue responsible for the regenerative effects.
The team used RNA sequencing to study 75,000 cells from sika deer. Cervus Nipponin the tissue in and near their antlers.
By performing this technique on the cells before, during and after the animals shed their antlers, they were able to discover exactly which ones trigger regrowth.
The results revealed that 10 days before the antlers were shed, stem cells were abundant in the antlers – the stumps that remain on the day of shedding.
Five days after shedding, these cells had generated a distinct subtype of stem cell, which the team dubbed “antler blastema progenitor cells” (ABPCs).
In 2020, another team of scientists found they could grow stumps on mice’s heads (pictured) by inserting a piece of deer antler tissue under their forehead skin
ABPCs formed in the antlers — outgrowths at the front of the skull — five days after deer shed their antlers. These were transplanted into the forehead of laboratory mice
The scientists grew ABPCs in a petri dish and implanted them between the ears of mice, where they grew into ‘antler-like structure(s)’ with cartilage and bone. Pictured: a microscopic view of a cut through an antler-like structure
And 10 days after molting, the ABPCs started to turn into cartilage and bone.
After discovering the cells responsible for antler regrowth in deer, the team then grew ABPCs in a lab petri dish.
Five days later, they transplanted the cells to between the ears of mice, where they grew into ‘antler-like structure(s)’ with cartilage and bone within just 45 days.
While the results are preliminary, the researchers think the findings could have important implications for humans.
The authors, led by Tao Quin, wrote: ‘Our results suggest that deer have an application in clinical bone repair.
“In addition, the induction of human cells in ABPC-like cells could be used in regenerative medicine for skeletal injury or limb regeneration.”
Synthetic embryo with brain, nerve cord and beating heart tissue is grown from mouse stem cells
Researchers have created “synthetic” embryos from mouse stem cells that contain a beating heart and the base of the brain and all other organs.
The models are intended to help Cambridge University scientists better understand the mechanisms of embryo development.
Although the research was conducted in mouse models, it is hoped that the results may help to further understanding why some human embryos fail. while others develop into a healthy pregnancy.
In addition, they could be used to guide the recovery and development of synthetic human organs for transplantation, the experts suggest.
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Synthetic embryo with colored heart and head folds. They show similar heart and brain formation