Humans found the ability to regrow limbs after scientists at Harvard University uncovered the DNA switch that controls genes for whole-body regeneration.
Some animals can achieve extraordinary feats of repair, such as salamanders which grow back legs, or geckos which can shed their tails to escape predators and then form new ones in just two months.
Planarian worms, jellyfish, and sea anemones go even further, actually regenerating their entire bodies after being cut in half.
Scientists have discovered that that in worms, a section of non-coding or DNA controls the activation of a ‘master control gene’ called early growth response which acts like a switch, turning regeneration on or off.
The studies were done in three-banded panther worms. Scientists found that during regeneration the tightly-packed DNA in their cells, starts to unfold, allowing new areas to activate.
But crucially humans also carry early growth response, and produce it when cells are stressed and in need of repair, yet it does not seem to trigger large scale regeneration.
Scientists now think that it master gene is wired differently in humans to animals and are now trying to find a way to tweak its circuitry to reap its regenerative benefits.
Marine animals, such as the moon jellyfish, are masters of regeneration and some have been found to clone themselves after death.
In 2016, a Japanese scientist reported that three months after the death of his pet jellyfish, a sea anemone-like polyp rose out of the degraded body, and then astonishingly aged backwards, reverting to a younger state.
In the 1990s, scientists in Italy discovered that the Turritopsis dohrnii jellyfish switches back and forth from being a baby to an adult, resulting in its nickname, the immortal jellyfish.