Science 2 min read

New Salamander Study Could Help Humans Regenerate Body Parts

Cute as it is, this little reptile's genome could be the key to immortality | Image Credit: Scientific American

Cute as it is, this little reptile's genome could be the key to immortality | Image Credit: Scientific American

According to researchers, the much-studied Axolotl genome may hold the secret to human body regeneration. Now, a team from the University of Kentucky just completed sequencing the genome.

Researchers have always wondered why some animals can regrow body parts and others can’t. They’re also continually considering if it’s possible for humans to regenerate body parts.

To answer these questions, Scientists at the University of Kentucky decided to assemble the complete genome of the axolotl, a salamander found in several lakes underlying Mexico city.

Axolotls are quite famous for their regenerating abilities. According to the co-author of the study Randal Voss, “It’s hard to find a body part they can’t regenerate: the limbs, the tail, the spinal cord, the eye, and in some species, the lens, even half of their brain has been shown to regenerate.”

Although the human genome is similar to the salamanders in some ways, the axolotl’s genome is ten times larger. As a result, scientists have always found it challenging to analyze, until now.

According to associate professor at the University of Kentucky, Jeramiah Smith, it was almost inconceivable to assemble a 30+ gigabyte genome a couple of years ago.

“We have now shown it is possible using a cost-effective and accessible method, which opens up the possibility of routinely sequencing other animals with large genomes,” he said.

Using the assembled data, the researchers quickly identified a gene that causes a heart defect in the salamander. At the same time, they provided a new model of human disease.

Studying the gene functions in other organisms like the axolotl is essential for understanding human diseases. Also, it offers a better understanding of the remarkable abilities of such organisms and how we can take advantage of it.

Ultimately, findings from the research will have a significant impact on future clinical practices.

“Now that we have access to genomic information, we can start to probe axolotl gene functions and learn how they can regenerate body parts. Hopefully, someday we can translate this information into human therapy, with potential applications for spinal cord injury, stroke, joint repair… The sky’s the limit, really,” said Voss.

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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