The Humble Axolotl and the Quest for Human Organ Regeneration

The popular science article I’ll point out today takes a look at research into axolotl biochemistry. The scientists involved are searching for ways in which they might be able to improve upon mammalian regeneration; the axolotl is one of the few higher species capable of perfect, repeated regeneration of lost limbs and severe damage to other organs. There are limits, of course, and the axolotl is just as mortal as any mammal, but mammals, ourselves included, have in comparison a very poor capacity for regeneration. We can barely grow back a fingertip, and even that only when very young, and not at all reliably. There are tantalizing hints that the capacity for far greater feats of regeneration still lurks within mammals, but disabled, or overridden. Mammals can regenerate during later embryonic development. The MRL mouse lineage can regenerate small injuries without scarring. African spiny mice have evolved to regenerate whole sections of skin perfectly, and don’t appear all that different from other rodents in other aspects.

axolotlMRL mouse lineageAfrican spiny miceregenerate whole sections of skin perfectly

In addition to axolotls, researchers work with zebrafish, newts, and other highly regenerative species. It is an exercise in comparative biology, an effort to reverse engineer


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