Even without help, people are capable of a certain degree of regeneration. Humans can regrow fingertips and even more than half of their liver. But they cannot replace whole limbs and restoring parts of their brain and spinal cord is a daunting challenge.
"The axolotl is the highest, most complex organism that can still do this clever trick of completely reconstructing a whole body part in adulthood," said Arlene Chiu, Ph.D., a scientific adviser for the Regeneration Project and director of New Research Initiatives at Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope. "I like to think of it in construction terms where we need both the materials such as bricks and beams and the architect's plans. In regenerative medicine, can we learn where the biological blueprint resides, and understand the basis of restoring and reorganizing many different types of lost cells and tissues? Muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels all have to be reconstructed at the right time and in the right place, all in perfect coordination with the original biological master plan.
"It may sound like science fiction, but the reality is the salamander is able to do all of these things," she said. "We are not so far removed that we can't relate to them, learn from them and try to apply their secrets to improve our capacity to regenerate."
As discoveries are made, more researchers will begin using the axolotl as a model for exploring regenerative techniques, according to S. Randal Voss, director of the Salamander Genome Project at the University of Kentucky.
"We've analyzed genes in common between the axolotl salamander and humans, and found out we share about 90 percent of our genes in a one-to-one sense," Voss said. "It could be that small but important changes in the way these genes function in an injury environment affect the repair process, but somehow the salamander is abl
|Contact: John Pastor|
University of Florida