Stem Cells for Regenerating Fingers? Study Probes Possibility

June 12, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

Stem cells under neath the nail were found to be responsible for regenerating finger tips and toe tips after amputation, a new study has found.

Mayumi Ito at New York University and other researchers studied mice to find that humans and other mammals can regenerate skin and bone at the ends of fingers, according to the New Scientist.

The scientists found stem cells at the base of each toenail can help with nail regrowth and the entire tip of the digit after amputation.

“We at least partly retain the mechanisms that operate limb regeneration in amphibians,” Ito said, according to the publication. “Knowing more about how nail epidermal cells induce digit-tip regeneration may provide direct clues to extend our ability for regeneration.”

The new findings, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, suggest there might be new treatments for amputees.

LiveScience.com reported that regenerating an amputated digit has to do with where the stem cells are located. It said that if the stem cells beneath the nail are amputated along with part of the digit, then there is no regrowth.

Scientists carried out toe amputations on two groups of mice in the study. There was one normal group of mice and another group that were given a drug that makes them unable to develop new nails. They found that the normal group could regenerate the tips of digits in a few weeks, while the other group could not. When the other mice were taken off the drug, they then could regenerate their toe tips.

James Monaghan, a regeneration biologist at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, told Nature’s website: “It’s really striking that the cellular mechanisms and signalling pathways, like Wnt and FGF, all seem to be the same as those in salamanders.” Salamanders are capable of regenerating a limb after losing it.

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