Even more intriguing is how the stags manage to regrow their antlers. Scientists have found stem cells at the bases of antlers’essentially ‘blank’ cells that can develop into many different types of cell, such as a skin cell or a cartilage cell. If they could find out what triggers the stem cells and controls their development into antlers, the knowledge could be applied to the regeneration of human limbs and organs. Scientists know that the shedding is initiated by a fall in the hormone testosterone, a change linked to an increase in day length, and they think oestrogen may be a key cellular regulator. However, much more research on a molecular level is required to unravel what is clearly an intricate process.
All male members of the deer family, including elk, moose and reindeer (caribou), grow a new set of antlers each year’from scratch, in just a matter of months’then shed them at the end of the annual mating season. The ability to regenerate such large appendages each year is unique to this family among mammals and rare in the animal kingdom as a whole (horns, in contrast to antlers, are permanent and cannot be regrown). Understanding how it happens could have significant implications for human medicine, particularly in the fields of wound healing and organ regeneration.
Deer antler velvet has been used in China for over 2,000 years. More recently, Soviet scientists in the 1980s tested the effects of deer antler velvet on the performance of elite Russian athletes, and the results were astonishing. Deer antler velvet helped increase the strength and muscle mass of Russian athletes, and speed their recovery time from exercise.
L-Arginine: An amino acid usually found in red meats that is important for the body’s ability to manufacture proteins. L-Arginine has been used to treat conditions like high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, blocked arteries, and erectile dysfunction. L-Arginine is safe for most people, however it should not be taken by women that are pregnant or breastfeeding.