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Scientists aim to regrow human limbs

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Tadpoles can heal wounds without scars, but the ability is lost once they become frogs.

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LIFE-CHANGING TECH

(CNN) -- Scientists in England are exploring ways for humans to regrow missing limbs and prevent scarring after surgery by researching frogs and salamanders.

Both sets of amphibians have a set of genes that enable them to recreate their own severed limbs.

The scientists, from the University of Manchester's faculty of life sciences, will work with The Healing Foundation, a charity funding research into all aspects of disfiguring conditions, in a 25-year partnership.

Enrique Amaya, professor of tissues regeneration at the university, said studies showed that salamanders can grow entire new limbs in less than a month due to cells known as blastema, which can regenerate body parts.

He said tadpoles whose tails were amputated grew them back in nine days, but they lost their regenerative ability after becoming frogs.

Human embryos could also heal wounds without scarring but only up to six months gestation.

The underlying genetic and cell biological mechanisms in frogs are essentially the same as those in humans, Amaya said.

"With the new tools and technologies we have at our disposal, I hope we will be able to make quick progress in our understanding of the basic biology of healing and regeneration," Amaya said.

"Within this generation, it will be possible to develop new treatments for amputees, survivors of major burns or trauma... a future where wounds heal without scars and perhaps even new limbs can be partially or completely regrown."

He said the scientists would first work to establish whether frogs could regenerate as adults. They would then be able to identify mechanisms to enable mammals to regenerate limbs in the same ways as salamanders.

More than 14,000 people are admitted to United Kingdom hospitals with serious burns each year, while four million surgical procedures take place in the UK each year, many leaving visible scars.

Meanwhile, 11,000 amputations of the hand, foot, arm or leg are carried out in the UK each year, according to The Healing Foundation.

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