Pixie Dust Regenerates Fingertips: Fact not Fiction

One in a series of excerpts from Michio Kaku’s amazing new book, PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE.

One breakthrough made by the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine has been using a radically new method of growing new organs. Scientists have long known that salamanders have remarkable powers of regeneration, regrowing entire limbs after they are lost. These limbs grow back because salamander stem cells are stimulated to make new limbs. One theory that has borne fruit is being explored by Stephen Badylak of the University of Pittsburgh, who has successfully regrown finger tips. His team has created a “pixie dust” with the miraculous power of regrowing tissue. This dust is created not from cells, but from the extracellular matrix that exists between cells. This matrix is important because it contains the signals that tell the stem cells to grow in a particular fashion. When this pixie dust is applied to a fingertip that has been cut off, it will stimulate not just the finger tip, but also the nail, leaving an almost perfect copy of the original finger. Up to one-third of an inch of tissue and nail has been grown in this fashion. The next goal is to extend this process to see if an entire limb can be regrown, just like the salamanders’.

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