The Pentagon has made its first significant development with ‘induced’ stem cells (stem cells not obtained from embryos) to regenerate the limbs of amputees who fought in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Researchers were successful in transforming epithelial cells, which were manipulated to regress to their primordial state, into blastemas. A blastema is a mass of undifferentiated cells, which can develop into new body parts. In nature, blastemas are present in salamanders, and newts, animals, which are capable of restoring their own limbs with functionality after amputation.
The final goal, which is still far away, is to replicate this extraordinary capability in humans. Before the final objective, reports Wired, researchers are now targeting a second phase: transforming these cellular masses into molecular tissues. The researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute involved in the discovery received 570,000 dollars from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The objective is to effectively replace lost muscle,” explained Professor Raymond Page. The DARPA project, “Restorative Injury Repair”, aims to “fully recover the functionality of muscular and nervous tissue that has been damaged or amputated due to injuries suffered during combat”.
The program was launched on April 20th by the Pentagon, which invested 250 million dollars over a 5-year period. The researchers built a new facility, the Military Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM) to develop the new Japanese technique, which is not the subject ethical controversy, since stem cells are generated with the regression of adult epithelial cells obtained from the patients.
This technique of obtaining stem cells removes the risk of rejection and gives cells the possibility to change into 271 types of tissue in the human body.