Regeneration is the process by which some creatures regrow lost body parts such as the tail or limbs, and axolotls are some of the best at it. Scientists now have their genome sequence that may be the key to mimicking the regeneration process in humans.
Until now, scientists had not been able to assemble axolotls genome sequence in the right order. In fact, just years ago, it was thought to be an impossible feat because of their complex genomes, thereby making the analysis of the creatures’ incredible regeneration capabilities close to impossible as well. Furthermore, while they share many of their genes with humans, theirs are 10 times larger.
But now, scientists from the University of Kentucky have finally completed axolotl genome sequence, making it the first genome of that size to be assembled to date. What’s more, they say that they were able to do so using a cost-effective and accessible method, opening up the possibility of doing it with the genomes of other animals as well.
Armed with axolotl genome information, the scientists are now hoping to use it to understand how they regenerate their body parts, and hopefully, eventually use the information they will gather to mimic it in humans. For instance, it may be used in developing new treatments for spinal cord injuries, stroke, and many other ailments.
The axolotl salamander can exclusively be found in the lake complex of Xochimilco near Mexico City. Unlike other salamanders, axolotls live in water permanently but may emerge under extreme circumstances.
Axolotls are known for retaining many of its larval features such as its external gills and dorsal fin, but they are also well known for their incredible regeneration capabilities. In fact, the scientists note that it’s rather difficult to pinpoint a body part that they cannot regenerate. And it’s not just the limbs or tails that they can regenerate, but they have also been known to regenerate their spinal cords, eyes, and in some species the lens and even half of the brain.
Unfortunately, axolotls are considered critically endangered due to various factors such as water contamination, their popularity in the aquarium trade, and because they are considered a delicacy in Mexico.