After a recent surgery brought on by being overly ambitious with parkour practice, I’ve been in the process of healing.
It’s one of those things we take for granted. A scratch slowly disappears from our skin. Infections evaporate. Sicknesses disappear. Or at least we hope so. We humans have fairly limited healing abilities, but other creatures get more fancy about it. Sometimes to extremes.
Cockroaches, for instance, can clot an amputated leg in less than a minute. Salamanders do even better. Cut off a toe, and it will grow back. In fact, if the entire leg is cut off, that will grow back too. Starfish? Also masters of limb regeneration.
But probably no one can beat the planarian. Cut one into four pieces, and you’ll have a dead planarian, right? Wrong. You’ll actually witness each piece growing into a living planarian. That’s four of them. Whoa.
We humans, taking our inspiration from nature, are trying to harness these incredible healing abilities. It turns out that when we are in the womb, we have a gene turned on that can regenerate tissues. But that gene quickly turns off as we age, so that our healing becomes progressively slower.
Mice, those little furry friends that we humans seem to feel free to experiment upon, have been treated with a drug that effectively turns those genes back on. The result is mice who can grow back severed toes. Unfortunately, this only works with young mice. Still, it might be the start of a new understanding about how healing works.
We’ve all heard stories of “miraculous” healings, and scientists are only beginning to comprehend the role of the mind in our ability to heal. Research on placebos, biofeedback, meditation, and hypnosis continue to give us hints that there is something vital we are missing in our unraveling of this puzzle.
It would be a very different world if we could harness these powers. Veterans who have lost limbs could regrow them and injuries that today would be fatal could see the victim living on for many years. Maybe it would inspire a new generation of adrenaline junkies who would take surfing and rock-climbing and parkour to even greater extremes.
And for me, it would mean that instead of six months of slow recovery, I would be typing this article with two hands instead of one-finger-pecking at the keyboard like a chicken in the barnyard.