Is Bone Regeneration Possible in Humans?

It’s a known fact that zebra fish have innate abilities to regenerate lost appendages and organs, but will researchers be able to crack the code that would make the same thing possible for humans? A recent paper published in Cell Reports shows how the two molecular pathways—the Wnt signaling pathway and the bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) pathway– work together in zebra fish to regenerate fins when they are amputated. University of Oregon (UO) researchers believe that understanding these signaling mechanisms in zebra fish could support the design of regenerative therapies that direct human cells to behave similarly.

According to a UO press release, “The researchers found that cell-to-cell signaling mediated by the Wnt pathway helps existing mature bone cells become progenitor cells after fin amputation.” Then the BMP pathway directs the newly formed cells to develop into functional bone cells. Humans have these same pathways, and defects in them are linked to human bone diseases.  Lead author Scott Stewart, PhD, said, “As we discover the cellular and molecular roles of the signals in zebra fish and pinpoint the missing network connections in mammals, maybe we could coax human bones to repair themselves equally as well.”

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