The ability to regenerate body parts has always been a fascinating prospect, inspiring characters like Wolverine who can instantly heal themselves and regrow body parts they’ve lost – and now regeneration has inspired scientific research.
Many species in the animal kingdom can regenerate: arthropods can regrow appendages, some annelids can regenerate from only a few segments of their body, echinoderms can both self-amputate and re-grow limbs, amphibians can regenerate a limb in as little as a month, and some reptiles can regenerate their tails.
The aquatic acorn worm, a small coral reef dweller that burrows in the sand and one of the closest invertebrate relations to the human, can regenerate any part of its body that has been cut off, even its nervous system and head. Cutting an acorn worm in half simply results in two complete, indistinguishable specimens within fifteen days.
Although it may sound like only the most fanciful science fiction, many research scientists believe that the regeneration of human body parts is achievable. The human roadmap that is contained in our DNA is present in every cell in our bodies, and it should also contain enough information to build or regenerate the body. If such a gene is what starts the process, it may be able to trigger regeneration in humans.
Genetically we are in a favorable position, and our progeny may see human regeneration as part of our medical reality in 100 years or so.