Friday, 6 August 2010

Doctor induced regeneration

Dr Who, of BBC television fame, can apparently regenerate his body twelve times, thus allowing him to live thirteen complete lives. (He is currently on his eleventh incarnation.)

He had better look to his laurels though as rabbits at Columbia University Medical Center can now regenerate their legs. Well, technically, just a particular joint in the foreleg. Researchers removed joints and replaced them with a bioscaffold and triggered stem cell production using a cocktail of drugs. Four weeks later the bunnies were hopping around like nothing had happened.

That was last week. This week scientists at the Gladstone Institute of the University of California have made a mouse's heart regenerate.

Both these therapies are at least five years away from being available to humans but the speed at which medicine is advancing is extra-ordinary. During the second half of the 20th century medicine seemed to lag behind the other scientific disciplines; while physicists were chivying individual atoms around doctors were hitting the whole patient with blanket-impact drugs and then fighting the side-effects. But now medicine has woken up and hardly a week goes past without some sort of breakthrough.

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