Everybody knows that Wolverine’s real power is his healing factor. Sure, the claws are fun, having adamantium bonded to your skeleton is useful, but it’s the fact that he can survive a power dive to the concrete or a crate of whiskey to the liver that makes Wolverine awesome. And while we may not be able to go that far, yet, science is starting to make headway with genetic therapy.
The key is a gene called Lin28a. Lin28a controls your regenerative abilities; how fast you grow back soft tissue like hair, skin, and cartilage. Over time, as we all know, this ability degrades; a child will heal more quickly than a senior citizen. But what if everybody healed as quickly as a toddler? Reactivating Lin28a seems to have something of that effect, at least in mice.
Scratch And Dent
The mice in question had the gene reactivated, and then lost their fingertips, since most of science is built around cruelty to small mammals. The mice rapidly grew back their lost parts, compared to the sad, fingertip-less mice who didn’t get the treatment. That’s not human testing, but we have the same gene, and the results are compelling. More importantly, it’s shown that there are other factors in tissue regeneration; for example, the researchers were capable of healing a wound more quickly by activating mitochondrial metabolism. That’s a big deal not least because, for obvious reasons, having a massive gaping wound is not really conducive to long-term survival.
A Long Way To Go
We’re going to have a long way to go before fixing your bum knee is a matter of getting an injection from the doctor. But this shows the way towards better treatment and better healing, which means we’ll live longer and recover better from damage.
Also, Wolverine cosplay will be vastly enhanced. And that’s the most important achievement of all.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.