Somewhere along the way, the purifying imperatives of evolution decided to dial back our bodies’ ability to rapidly regenerate tissue. Nobody knows exactly why. It could be because cancer in mammals would grow like wildfire if it didn’t. But this ancient property remains in fetuses and infants and diminishes significantly as we age. Researchers say it may not have to. Dr. Hao Zhu of the Children’s Medical Research Institute at UT Southwestern believes the gene Lin28a can be reactivated to enhance tissue regeneration after surgery, serious injury and to combat degenerative disease.
“As we age, our tissues get worse and worse at regenerating. They get worse at coming back from injury,” Zhu tells Unfair Park. “The curious thing is that the genetics behind this, the biology underlying that principle, is poorly understood. We believe some genes being turned off or on are responsible for that phenomenon.”
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