Duke University found the same molecules in humans as the ones in salamanders and other animals. This molecule called microRNA is more active in animals, but if developed into a way to help repair joint cartilage in humans, it could be life-changing.

Researchers found that cartilage repair happens faster in ankle joints compared to hips and knees. The “age” of this cartilage could be determined by newly created proteins in tissues in the body. Ankle cartilage is considered young while hip cartilage is old.

The discovery compares with how people get arthritis symptoms worse in hips and knees compared to ankles. Ankles also heal faster than hips and knees comparable to limb repair in animals. The ends of legs or tails regenerate faster in animals.

Molecules called microRNA regulate the process of regenerating joint cartilage and are found in both humans and animals. MicroRNAs are more active in animals known for fin or tail repair, like salamanders.

 Virginia Byers Kraus, a professor in the departments of Medicine, Pathology, and Orthopedic Surgery at Duke says, “”We believe that an understanding of this ‘salamander-like’ regenerative capacity in humans, and the critically missing components of this regulatory circuit, could provide the foundation for new approaches to repair joint tissues and possibly whole human limbs.”

Researchers are now looking for ways to boost these regulators for cartilage and turn it into a medicine.

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