The natural regeneration of limbs, which has fascinated scientists for more than 200 years, is seen as possible if the secrets of a similar process in amphibians can be deciphered.

The military research has been spurred by the need for potential treatments for the increasing numbers of soldiers with disfiguring injuries.

However, scientists who have long grappled with the problem believe the cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996 and the first stem cell lines two years later have taken them significantly closer to their goal.

The United States’ Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is spearheading an initial £250,000 research project, codenamed ReGenesis, to investigate the potential of such work.

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