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Tiny, giant Stentors are changing regenerative medicine

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 26 April 2017
Tiny, giant Stentors are changing regenerative medicine

If asked what you thought a 'stentor' was, we'd likely hear answers ranging from some sort of prehistoric dinosaur, to a villain from He-Man.

Stentors are neither extinct monsters or fictional bad guys, but they are the most peculiar, puzzling organisms on our planet.

To learn more about your local stentors, they can be found lurking in a pond near you. Or, you could read the rest of this blog post.

They aren't dinosaurs. They aren't He-Man villains. So what are stentors?

The anatomy of a Stentor is unlike anything we've seen on Earth, comprised of nothing more than a single cell. But, this solo cell is so massive, it can be seen with the naked human eye.

Measuring in at a robust and meaty 1 to 2 millimeters, a stentor is a thousand times longer than the majority of common bacteria, and a billion times the volume.

And despite being a singular cell, it's as complex as the unsolved moving sofa math equation. It has a mouth - that's right, the cell has a mouth-like orifice - that's big enough to consume algae, and advanced enough to spit out the parts it doesn't care for. Oh, and this all without an actual brain or central nervous system to direct such commands.

Wolverine-like Regeneration

Its genome is organized like nothing else ever seen before, with the ability to not only flee from predators (they shoot a blue pigment, like a squid's ink), but heal itself through regeneration if something takes a chunk out the stentor.

"If you cut off the head or the mouth structure it'll rebuild the mouth structure," explains Wallace Marshall, a researcher at the University of California San Francisco. "If you cut off the tail it'll rebuild the tail. It seems to know what's missing."

And it's that inimitable, Wolverine-like trait that has Wallace and his research team curious about translating the stentor's regeneration skills and applying it to humans.

Today's regenerative medicine practices - like platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy or adipose derived stem cells (ADSC) - is predicated on replacing damaged cells through differentiating stem cells, transforming them into new, operational skin, muscle, or bone cells.

"Which is great but - at some level this is a provocative statement - I feel like it's trying to fix a radio by dumping in a bunch of transistors," says Marshall.

"What you really want to do is get the damaged cells themselves to regenerate in situ, in their natural position, because then you might be able to rebuild the tissue exactly like it was before."

In other words, exactly what stentors do.

How can we translate the regenerative properties of stentors to humans?

As we touched on earlier, a stentor's genome is completely unheard of in the world of science.

In February, Marshall and his colleagues sequenced the genome for the first time, scoping for additional insight on the regenerative powers of stentors. They discovered oddities with its 'introns', or spacers within the strands of DNA.

For comparison, human DNA features introns whose scope can extend to over a thousand letters. In a stentor? There's just 15, the shortest of any known organism on Earth.

And if you want to know why, well you'll have to wait your turn in the long and continuously growing line of stentor-related queries.

"One possibility is the cell is just trying to make its genome as compact as it can," says Marshall. "Now, why that would be in a gigantic cell, I don't really know."

Plus, these single-cell organisms carry thousands of copies of its genome in its busy-body; human cells carry two feeble copies.

Marshall and his team hypothesize the abundance of copies could be the key to unlocking their uncanny regenerative properties. Having that many copies spread throughout its tiny, giant cell body might allude to instructions being available whenever an injury occurs (remember, they have neither brains nor nervous systems).

So Marshall believes understanding the genome will lead to understanding regeneration.

For now, it's a wait-and-see approach, as Marshall and his team rummage through the muck of San Francisco's ponds for clues on this strange organism's superpower. Who knows, it may in fact lead to a new form of human regeneration one day in the future.

You may not be impressed, but we know He-Man would be.


Luckily for us, we've already unlocked the secrets to expediting the healing process for chronic injuries, muscle tears, and broken bones! With PRP therapy, ADSC therapy, and other injection therapies & regenerative medicines, we can have you healing faster than a stentor (well, almost).

From tendon, muscle, and meniscal tears, to arthritis and other ailments, our injection therapy treatments utilize your body's own natural healing ability to expedite the recovery process. Call us today at 1-855-847-3975 to schedule an appointment, or drop by one of our RegenerVate locations!

Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Stoddard is a sport medicine and injection physician in Toronto and is the Medical Director of RegenerVate. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sport Medicine. His injection training, including ultrasound, PRP and Prolotherapy, was primarily done in the USA. He is a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM), is married and a proud father of two boys. He is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
Tags: Stem Cell Research

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