News & Opinion | March 20, 2019 5:00 am

Scientists Discovered How Animals Regenerate Their Whole Bodies

One gene in DNA is all it takes to regrow a limb.

A picture taken on March 16, 2018 shows jelly fish at the sea center Oceanopolis in Brest, western of France. (FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

Ever wonder how animals like a jellyfish can regenerate their entire body after a fight, accident or injury? Harvard scientists have and now believe they have cracked the code, and it comes down to one gene in an animal’s DNA.

A Harvard team used three-banded panther worms as their test subjects and found a master control gene they called the early growth response or EGR.

“What we found is that this one master gene comes on [and activates] genes that are turning on during regeneration,” Andrew Gehrke explained to the Harvard Gazette. “Basically, what’s going on is the noncoding regions are telling the coding regions to turn on or off, so a good way to think of it is as though they are switches.”

Researchers found that once the master code was activated the worm’s genome starts to regenerate the animal’s body.

Unfortunately, humans won’t be mimicking this regenerative action. Even though we do have the EGR gene, humans’ wiring is different and won’t regenerate an arm or leg, or even a head, like the panther worm.