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.
A systemic review on human interventions makes note of a study conducted on patients of osteoarthritis (Edelman et al. 2000; cannot be located online) which found improvements in joint pain symptoms relative to baseline in the Velvet Antler group and not placebo, although a lack of information on blinding and randomization precludes results that can be drawn from this study.