An unregenerated tail on an untreated tadpole (top), and a regenerated tail on one that received the treatment (bottom) (Photos: Ai-Sun Tseng and Michael Levin-Tufts University)
In a study that could have implications for the treatment of traumatic injuries in humans, scientists at Tufts University in Massachusetts have succeeded in getting tadpoles to regrow amputated tails. The researchers first noted that when the tails were cut off of young Xenopus laevis (African clawed frog) tadpoles, a localized increase in sodium ions occurred at the amputation site, which allowed the tail to regenerate – something which tadpoles lose the ability to do as they mature. However, after an hour of treatment with a drug cocktail that triggered an influx of sodium ions into injured cells, older tadpoles were also able to regenerate their tails. Given that tadpole tails contain spinal cord, muscle, nerves and other materials, it’s possible that the process might someday be able to regenerate the spinal cords, or even limbs, of people.