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Genes for Some Fast-Growing Antlers

Studies of deer antlers and how they re-grow each year could help uncover treatments for human afflictions like osteoporosis, the New York Times reports.

Deer, it adds, lose their antlers each winter and regrow them beginning in the spring. Stanford University School of Medicine's Peter Yang tells the Times that he became fascinated by deer antlers while on vacation at Alaska's Denali National Park when a tour guide mentioned that they could grow an inch a day during the summer.

Yang and his colleagues have now homed in on two genes that appear to have key roles in this process. As they report this week in Stem Cell Research & Therapy, they cultured cells obtained from deer antlers — finding antlers were mostly stem cells — and compared them to human cells. Comparative RNA-sequencing uncovered 40 genes involved in proliferation and 91 genes involved in mineralization. The researchers focused on uhrf1 and s100a10, which have been associated with human bone development, the Times notes, and immunofluorescence, gene overexpression, and gene knockdown studies confirmed their respective involvement in proliferation and mineralization.

This could have, Yang tells the Times, "really interesting applications for human health," if confirmed.