View Full Version : Regeneration - possible or fiction?

2005-Nov-18, 06:00 PM
Okay, this is the way it is. It is possible to "map out" the human body, cell by cell, organ by organ, body part by body part. Eventually, it will probably be possible to program into our bodies certain signals and responces that did not otherwise exist...

So, is it possible to get the body to regenerate itself? What would be required for this to happen? What body processes would have to be revamped or redeveloped?

Hugh Jass
2005-Nov-18, 07:36 PM
I don't have most of the answeres, but in short, yes.

Many other organisms have the ability, like starfish and lizards' tails. We are starting to understand that process and how it relates to the formation of scar tissue. Further we do have some regenerative ability. I don't remember exactly, but the very tip of a finger, basically the part that sticks out past where your fingernail seperates from your skin. One of the things being looked into, is not how that happens, but why it doesn't occur everywhere. Why the limits?

2005-Nov-18, 07:38 PM
One of the things being looked into, is not how that happens, but why it doesn't occur everywhere. Why the limits?

Hmm... an interesting question!

Thanks for the help, Hugh. *Makes an addendum in his game setting*

2005-Nov-18, 08:23 PM
I seem to rember a segment on regeneration over at:

A memory has even been caught--in part:

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/life-05zzzzzzzx.html Better call Roger Smith and R. Dorothy

2005-Nov-18, 09:11 PM
So, is it possible to get the body to regenerate itself? What would be required for this to happen? What body processes would have to be revamped or redeveloped?
I think you need to be a little more specific. The human body does all kinds of things to regenerate itself - wounds heal, bones grow back together, even some of the major organs (like the liver) can rebuild themselves from small pieces. I'm guessing you are talking about such things as spinel cord regeneration and growing limbs back.

I know there has been tons of research on spinel cord regeneration - I'm sure you can goggle up a ton of stuff.

2005-Nov-18, 09:13 PM
"Goggle" up? So search the murky depths of the internet!


2005-Nov-18, 09:38 PM
I have heard (though I haven't actually seen) that children can lose the end of a finger up to the first joint and regrow it.


Becker wrote that "regeneration of lost body parts is an ability shared to a varying degree by all living things. In the evolutionary sequence, the ability be-gradually decreased. In a child, the diaphysis of a long bone can regenerate provided that the periosteal tube is intact, but, in an adult, a fracture heals by replacement with functional osseous tissue." He considered that important factors are nutrition, vascularity and immobilization, but that the basic cell dedifferentiation and subsequent redifferentiation to produce a replica of the missing bone represents true tissue regeneration, Becker12 gave an excellent review of recent research in the field of regenerative healing in man.

So probably things lower down the evolutionary scale are more likely to be able to regenerate, or things that still have the ability to grow. That's really cool, actually... the way that paragraph reads, when a kid breaks a bone, the cells around the break turn back into stem cells and re-grow the bone, whereas when an adult has a break, the bone tissue just multiplies and covers up the area. I wonder if that means that early childhood breaks won't show up on x-rays after the bone is healed.

So, maybe trolls in D&D are like humans, but they have an extra hormone or something that induces cell dedifferentiation around wounded areas. You stab one, and pretty soon all the flesh around the wound turns white or yellow or something, and a bit later whatever you stabbed is regrown, with no visible scar or anything. Of course, if your wound interrupted blood flow to the brain, the troll might end up temporarily brain dead... but then the dead cells there might regrow, too, provided they can scavenge enough nutrients... of course, those might come from glial cells, and the connections might be permanently lost or changed, rendering him a vegetable, or insane, or suddenly very good at completing Rubik's Cubes. :)

And maybe this applies to all injuries, even bruises or natural cell deaths. All this cell dedifferentiation and redifferentiation could make them particularly prone to cancers, which is why they prefer to live under bridges and out of the sun. The ones who liked the sun were weeded out by evolution.

That's why trolls are so tall, too. They're constantly growing. You don't see ones that are too big just because they die before it happens. They are like giant, complex tumours. They get tumours on their tumours. In fact, for your game setting, you could decide that it is a malignant cancer-like virus that is passed down from troll to troll and causes their regenerative abilities. Maybe a few are immune to it and stop growing (and lose regeneration) early on, being short but longer-lived. Or maybe this happened a few times early in troll evolution and spawned goblins. And maybe the virus can be passed on to humans through blood, making fighting against trolls (or having sex with them, I suppose) a risky business. Can anyone cast "cure disease"?

I'm not a squeamish person, but there's a part in that article that makes me cringe:

Even when the bone protrudes, nothing at all is done except gentle cleaning of the area, which is then covered with thick layer of Tulle-gras and a mitten bandage.


2005-Nov-18, 10:04 PM
In my game world, I'll say that with wide-spread genetic engineering, not only has skin and bone been made tougher (so minor injuries are harder to gain), but also that the cells can be "triggered" to have a cancer-like growth, but only with the benefits, none of the disadvantages.

Also, the game setting isn't a fantasy one. It's a futuristic science-fiction setting, without many "monsters" or even "alien races"...

Except for those that have been magically effected by the Manites (like Mana, only scientificy!... and rare), or those that have gone through such extensive genetic engineering and/or have been "cut off" from mainstream civilization enough to be something completely different.

Of course, this doesn't count the "Alternate Universe" game setting I intend to have later.

2005-Nov-18, 10:36 PM
In my game world, I'll say that with wide-spread genetic engineering, not only has skin and bone been made tougher (so minor injuries are harder to gain), but also that the cells can be "triggered" to have a cancer-like growth, but only with the benefits, none of the disadvantages.

In that case, I have a few other extensions of that idea. If you can arbitrarily trigger gene expressions and build your own genes, there might be some people who can do really cool things, like change colour chameleon-style, or change their bone/muscle shapes (great for disguise/infiltration), or grow extra limbs or organs (most likely over a period of time, but if it's sci-fi maybe there are catalytic processes to speed this up). You shoot a guy in the head only to discover that he actually keeps his brain in his abdomen. Too bad for you: he's already escaped or shot you. The head will regrow in a few weeks. You might have an eye in the plam of your hand so you can safely peer around corners. Maybe some people don't need to eat as much, getting energy from a photosynthetic-like process. Maybe some people have the ability to digest left-handed sugars, so they can survive by eating grass or other stuff that is otherwise indigestible. Other people have implanted fish genes, so they have both gills and lungs. Still others might be able to rapidly transport a lot of calcium to a single point in the body, creating a tough, temporary shell (strong enough to block bullets, perhaps). Perhaps some people secrete venom in their fingernails or mouths (or the sharp, pointy tails they keep hidden away until danger appears).

At the point where you're gene splicing, you can take ideas from the natural world. Remember that mouse with the human ear on its back? All it required were some nerve linkups.... Find an animal, look at what it has, add to human. Repeat. Genetic engineering rules.

I wouldn't get rid of all the bad things, though. In a game, every advantage one person has over another should be offset by a disadvantage of some sort. It might be as simple as the government controlling who gets engineered, or massive expense, but it could be very complicated (like having to stay out of direct sunlight -- futuristic vampires!). Maybe people with chameleon skin can't control the changes... it's purely reflexive. Thus, they are shunned socially. That kind of stuff would keep most of the average people from being super-powerful, reserving really scary stuff for villains and heroes (and also adding a lot of depth to those prominent characters).

2005-Nov-18, 10:52 PM
I might add something: In my game universe, heavy gene modifications is not allowed for anyone other than those in the GIS program, which was cancelled in about 2200 AD or somesuch. The GIS program only became restarted in the Age of Piracy only in the Pirate Kingdoms. In the Age of Military is when the really gengineered soldiers come out.

However, very nice ideas so far, snarkophilus!

I have to wonder, though: Isn't there a material that's being researched that's capable of "bending light"? As in, making something potentially invisible, more or less?

As for the "brain not in the head", I make it a point to have it so that machines have extra armor on the torso, and keep their CPU in the torso, unless they have a power source that's quite large.

2005-Nov-20, 09:54 PM
Check into the MRL mice strain for examples of mammalian regeneration - they're a lab strain that was isolated a number of years ago, then about 10 years or so ago apparrently picked up some degree of regeneration ability.

They're currently investigating 12 genetic loci believed to be involved in the regeneration ability of the mice.

They were originally identified when they started healing ear punches (used to mark mice) without scarring a la amphibian-like regeneration.

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/98/17/9830 - they regenerate significant amounts of induced heart damage without scarring. 20% of the cells divided in the healer mice vs 1-3% in the nonhealer.


http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089%2Fclo.2004.6.352 - when they transplanted fetal liver cells from healer mice into non-regenerative ones, the healing effect was dominant in the non-healers. They regenerated damage as well.

I didn't find any papers (but then, I'm not looking that hard), but a couple of the symposia press releases indicated regenerative abilities in other areas, including liver, optic nerve, tail tips, full fingers, and so on.