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Dr. Len Epp Discusses Limb Regeneration at LINC Luncheon

November 18, 2009

Dr. Leonard Epp, professor of biology at Mount Union College, was the featured speaker at this month’s LINC luncheon on November 17.

Epp presented “If They Can Do It, Why Can’t We?” While mammals cannot regenerate limbs, he noted that it is beneficial to study the amphibians’ ability to regenerate to learn more about how to treat human amputation.

He explained that hydras are known for shedding the extra cells that they produce and that they can create new hydras asexually with those cells. These creatures are fascinating because if you cut the hydra in half, it has the capability of healing and reproducing.

“A hydra is an invertebrate animal that lives in a fresh water pond and is related to a jellyfish. They are able to regenerate about 12 to 15 cells,” said Epp. “Every cell in a hydra has the same nucleus and same genes.”

Ian Wilmut, the Scottish embryologist, took a nucleus from a female sheep, inserted it into another egg and produced another animal. Because of his study, researchers are able to reprogram cells. They can take skin cells and change them into heart cells by manipulating the DNA. Humans do not have the capability of reproducing, but the liver will regenerate within limits. Scientists are currently conducting research on reproducing human tissue.

“One of the only parts of the body humans can regenerate within its limits are finger tips,” he said. “Infants have the means of regenerating up to a certain age.”

Epp spent his sabbatical at the University of Kentucky studying Mexican axolotls, a type of salamander, to see exactly how they are able to regenerate an amputated limb. One of their most fascinating traits is how their limbs will regenerate within one or two months. Yet the limb regeneration will only take place if the salamander has its nerve system in order for the blastema formation to take place.

A member of the Mount Union College faculty since 1970, Epp earned a bachelor of arts degree in biology from Gettysburg College and master’s and doctoral degrees from Pennsylvania State University.

LINC (lunch, information, networking and conversation) was conceived to take advantage of the local expertise that exists in Alliance, in light of the College’s exceptional academic reputation. Mount Union professors and community members discussing current topics.

The sessions are open to the public and will run from noon until 1 p.m. during the third Tuesday of the months January, February and March. The cost for the lunch is $10, and will be served in the Hoover-Price Campus Center. A season ticket is available at a reduced cost.

For further information or to make a reservation contact Diane Thomas, associate director of public affairs at (330) 823-6078 or e-mail thomasdl@mountunion.edu. The cost for the lunch is $10 and payment will be accepted at the door, but space is limited so call to reserve your spot today.

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