Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Genetic Data’s Hammer and Nails

In Regrow Your Own, The New York Times covers research into regeneration of body parts. If other species like salamanders can regenerate various body parts, can humans be made to do the same?

It’s an interesting topic in general, but the part that caught my eye was this:

Regeneration is studied in only a few laboratories. It was not even on the agenda of the research planning meeting held last October by the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, which was dominated by stem cell biologists.

One reason for this orphan status is that the model animals used by most biologists, like the roundworm, the fruitfly and the mouse, happen to be ones that do not regenerate.

The genetics of regenerating animals, like the salamander, are largely unknown. Hence the process of regeneration has received little attention from research biologists.

Now that’s a great example of how, as the saying goes, people with hammers (existing genetic data about a small number of species) only see nails (issues relevant to those small number of species).

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