Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Spider-Man adventure similar to actual science

Date:
July 24, 2012
Source:
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Summary:
A regenerative medicine researcher says that the plot of latest Spider-Man adventure isn’t as far-fetched as people might think.

3-D printing projects under way at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine include prototype kidneys, finger bone and ears.
Credit: Image courtesy of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

In Spider-Man's latest adventure, scientists delve into the field of regenerative medicine as they work to re-grow a human limb. Koudy Williams, D.V.M., a self-described "Spider-Man geek" and real-life regenerative medicine researcher, says the plot of the latest comic book and movie isn't as far-fetched as some people might think.

Related Articles


"We're working on long-term projects to regenerate fingers and limbs," says Williams, a professor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Institute for Regenerative Medicine. "But we have safer ways to do it than the researchers in Spider-Man."

Several of the science themes in Spider-Man's latest adventure -- from working to harness the body's natural regenerative powers to making use of natural materials such as the silk in spiderwebs -- are happening today in regenerative medicine laboratories, Williams said. Regenerative medicine is a relatively new field of science that works to replace or repair damaged or diseased tissues and organs.

In the latest adventure, a scientist attempts to re-grow his missing arm by combining human genes and genes from a salamander, which has a natural ability to re-grow its limbs. When the experiment goes awry, the scientist becomes a lizard villain.

"When I was watching the movie, I said to myself, 'We do that -- sort of,'" said Williams. "We do study the regenerative abilities of salamanders and other animals and we try to harness the body's innate ability to regenerate itself. But we would never combine human and animal genes -- we have much safer methods."

Williams said real-life researchers take three approaches in their efforts to repair and replace organs. One is to build, or engineer, replacement organs in the lab using a patient's own cells and an organ-shaped mold or scaffold to support cells as they grow. Bladders, urine tubes and sections of windpipes have all been built in this way and implanted in humans. A second method is to inject healing cells into a diseased organ. The third approach -- most like the science portrayed in Spider-Man -- is to use drug-like molecules to promote healing from within.

"The body has the capacity to heal naturally," says Williams. "When there's an injury, cells release substances known as chemokines that attract other cells to promote healing. That's how a broken bone repairs itself and the outer layer of the eye re-grows if it is scratched. In regenerative medicine, our aim is to boost this natural healing power.

"The body knows what it needs to heal. We work to see if we can improve on it. This is most like what scientists in the Spider-Man movie were doing. Our projects include evaluating the use of natural materials to speed up nerve regeneration, heal diseased kidneys and improve one of the current options for heart valve replacement."

Just like in the Spider-Man comic book and movie, researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and colleagues at other institutions have a long-term project to re-grow fingers and limbs to help wounded military personnel. "We're years away from being able to bioengineer an arm, or even a finger," Williams said. "But we're working on the component parts, including muscle, bone, fat, skin and tendons, and part of our work will be to use the body for the regeneration process."

Williams calls Spider-Man a "science genius" for determining the best substance for the web-like substance he shoots out from a device he made. "He figured out something that would carry his weight and be elastic so he could swing from rooftop to rooftop."

In the lab, scientists use natural materials such as silk -- found in spiderwebs -- as scaffolds for organs and tissues that they are engineering. Like Spider-Man, they must select materials that match their use -- looking for materials that are compatible with the body, promote cell growth and degrade into the body once the engineered tissue has integrated with existing tissue.

Also similar to Spider-Man, Wake Forest Baptist scientists developed a device that shoots out a spider-web-looking material. In this case, the material is caught on a spinning rod to create a tubular structure that can be used to engineer blood vessels.

Williams, who owned the first Spider-Man comic book -- and wishes he still had it -- said he got interested in science through Spider-Man, a super-hero who wins awards for his research. When Williams had difficulties with reading in grade school, his teacher encouraged his parents to let him read anything he wanted. He chose comic books and Spider-Man was the first one he bought.

"As a child, I always wanted to be Spider-Man. But now I have the next-best thing. I'm a researcher who uses some of the same technology as Spider-Man."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "Spider-Man adventure similar to actual science." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724171229.htm>.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. (2012, July 24). Spider-Man adventure similar to actual science. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724171229.htm
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "Spider-Man adventure similar to actual science." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120724171229.htm (accessed December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Why Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) According to research out of the University of Pennsylvania, waking up for work is the biggest factor that causes Americans to lose sleep. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flu Outbreak Closing Schools in Ohio

Flu Outbreak Closing Schools in Ohio

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) A wave of flu illnesses has forced some Ohio schools to shut down over the past week. State officials confirmed one pediatric flu-related death, a 15-year-old girl in southern Ohio. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins