LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- Biologists in Lexington make advancements in regeneration, which refers to how mammals can heal on their own following an injury. The University of Kentucky is setting itself a part from other laboratories around the world. 

The concept behind regeneration, how organisms can regrow their body parts, has fascinated scientists since at least the mid 1700s. "Wondering why this animal can do it and why I can't is something that drives me to understand what those differences are," says Dr. Ashley Seifert, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Kentucky. 

Dr. Seifert came to UK in 2013 after finishing up his PhD in 2008.  "I would have never dreamed that three years later after traveling to Kenya, I've discovered a mouse which is a mammal, which is capable of regenerating tissue," Dr. Seifert said.

His lab researches limb regeneration in salamanders, retinal regeneration in zebra fish and skin and tissue regeneration in mice. "Seeing these little hair follicles peaking up through the center of an injury which for you or I would result in scar tissue and not really believe it and thinking I did something wrong," Dr. Seifert said.

A team of biologists work at UK to answer the question so many others have too. "The idea is can we help them [people], right?"

The goal is to one day help trauma patients. "I still feel that it's something that needs to be studied much more so that it can be replicated in humans and one day, we can regenerate our body parts,"  says Sruthi Purushothanan, fourth year grad student.

Dr. Seifert said the department has seen encouraging research about how injured cells behave and respond and what separates animals who can and cannot regenerate. "I think one of the unique things that's happening here at the University of Kentucky is we're in a biology department. So, we're starting from the ground up and trying to attract a nexus of researchers here who all work on animal models," Dr. Seifert said. "The biological perspective first moving upwards as opposed to us thinking about the medical needs first and then trying to figure out what it is that can lead to some of those therapies."

Small, steady steps have been the name of the game to one day make it into the medical field. "A lot of these discoveries are going to come through basic research first and we really need to get the message out that our universities are important."

It would be an accomplishment to Dr. Seifert and so many others' life's work who hope to change lives ultimately. "I do firmly believe in my lifetime that we might be get close to regrowing a piece of a digit back and that would be spectacular to actually get that."
 

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