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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Newt, Ewt, Call it What You Wish. It Could Be a Cure for Cancer!

18 Kislev 5768

My neighbor Rabbi Natan Slifkin is a wonderful researcher of the magnificent animal world (see His publishing career informs the world of fascinating natural wonders that so many of us would otherwise not know. The following excerpt of his most recent free Zine tells us that the medical world is on the verge of a cancer cure, thanks to the humble Newt:

"Newts used to be called ewts, but when you talk about an ewt it's very easy for the listener to think that you're talking about a newt, which is how the letter "n" migrated from one word to another.

"The fire-bellied newt is named after the striking red pattern on its belly, which warns predators of its mildly toxic skin secretions. Aside from that, it is plain black in color. Much as I find them appealing, it is hard to convince others that there is anything special about them. In an effort to make family and students appreciative of my new pets, I engaged in a little research.

"The information that I discovered amazed me. It is well-known that certain lizards have the ability to shed their tail and grow a new one, although the new tail is simply an elongation of the flesh and has no bone. But newts can lose entire legs and regenerate them to be indistinguishable from the original, bones and all. If the leg is severed at the shoulder, it will grow an entire leg. If it is severed at the knee, it will grow just the lower leg and foot. How do the cells know which part to manufacture? That isn't entirely clear.

"The tiny newt's amazing ability to direct rapid cellular growth has another ramification. The dreaded disease of cancer occurs when cells reproduce without stopping, invading the rest of the body. There are substances that can be injected into animals which cause them to grow tumors and contract deadly cancer. But when you inject these substances into a newt, they don't grow tumors; instead, they grow another leg or tail! It was just a few weeks ago that biologists finally identified the protein that is responsible for the newt's amazing abilities. Now the work is on to understand how this protein works, ultimately with a view to being able to engineer such a process for human beings. Science is a long, long way off from such things, but the humble newt has set us on the path."

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To your good health,

Yojeved Golani
Coping with a Medical Crisis?
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