Science Questions

Sat, 22nd Oct 2005

Part of the show Social Insects, Biting Bugs and a Potted History of Honey


Malcolm in Essex asked:

If I cut off my finger, why don't cells keep on dividing and give me a new finger? They gave me a finger when I was a baby!


That's a really interesting question, and it explains why humans are different from things like amphibians. If you cut the tail off a newt, newts can grow back their tails and their limbs. But human cells can't do this, mostly. We do have some cells within our bodies such as in our brain and cells in our skin that do keep on growing. That's why we can heal small wounds. But with something like a finger, there are so many different types of complicated cells, that our stem cells are not capable of making them. They just don't have it left in them to do it. We basically don't have the genes and genetic programme to do it.


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