Researchers from Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi’an, China, have demonstrated their ability to grow antlers on the foreheads of mice using stem cells transplanted from deer.
Unlike the mice given human lung cells prior to the pandemic by Wuhan virologist Shi Zhengli, these monsters are not being developed to create a new infectious pathogen. Rather, the scientists behind these grotesque experiments reckon their work may lead to advancements in human limb regeneration.
Tao Qin and his team's mice-antler research was published earlier this month in the Springer Nature journal Science.
The researchers noted that deer lose their antlers every spring. By autumn they have a new set, which grow approximately 1.08 inches a day and can reach up to 33 pounds in mass and 47 inches in length in approximately three months.
Whereas various fish, lizards, and amphibians have the capacity to rebuild organs and other body parts, this is not a common feature in mammals, so the ability of male deer to routinely regenerate bony structures enveloped in nerves and blood vessels may have some bearing on human endeavors to do likewise.
Supposing that a better understanding of the regeneration of deer antlers could be a source of potential applications in medicine, Qin and his team identified a population of antler blastema progenitor (stem) cells responsible for the antler regeneration cycle in sika deer.
This variety of stem cell, they reckon, could be a feature available to vertebrate tissue regeneration.
The researchers took stem cell populations from the base of shed antlers that were no more than five days old, cultivated them in a petri dish, then transplanted them into the foreheads of lab mice.
While limited, mice also happen to have the ability to regenerate parts of a limb: the tips of the toes on their front legs. Consequently, they may be more amenable than other mammals to the transplants.
Within two months of implantantion, the mice began to suffer ghastly deformations, described by the scientists as "antler-like structure[s]" of their own.
Field and Stream reported that this is not the first time that Chinese scientists have radically deformed mice with deer-like antlers.
A paper published August 2020 in the Journal of Regenerative Biology and Medicine detailed how researchers at Changchun Sci-Tech University in China's Jilin province transplanted antler tissue — not just the specific blastema cells — from a deer onto the heads of mice. They concluded that "the successful establishment of a nude mouse model to grow xenogeneic antlers has opened a totally new avenue for antler research."
Qin and his team noted that their recent results "suggest that deer [antler blastema progenitor cells] may have an application in clinical bone repair. ... Beyond this, induction of regular human mesenchymal or other cells into ABPC-like cells through activation of key characteristic genes could potentially be used in regenerative medicine for skeletal injuries or limb regeneration."
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