with their spotless history, what could go wrong?
Scientists Attempt to Crack Secret Code of the Axolotl. The axolotl is one of a kind in nature: It can regenerate severed limbs, organs and even grow back its spinal column after injuries. At a new research center in Hanover, Germany, researchers are trying to unlock the Mexican salamander's secrets -- and whether they can be applied to humans.
These are no ordinary amphibians. Many have had flaps of skin removed or parts of their limbs cut off -- under sedation of course -- by scientists investigating their regenerative capabilities. "Coagulation sets in instantly", says scientist Björn Menger. "You can almost watch the healing process happening." It only takes a few months until the body part has regenerated completely -- "the younger ones are even faster," says molecular biologist Kerstin Reimers-Fadhlaoui.
In September 2010, molecular biologists, surgeons and amphibian experts set up a center for axolotl research in Hanover. Their hope is that they can unlock the healing secrets of the axolotl. They also believe the animal may hold the key to longer life and prolonged youth and health.
"We share a common evolutionary history with amphibians," explains Kerstin Reimers-Fadhlaoui. "Regeneration is in our own fundamental genetic makeup." Perhaps the axolotl will help us to discover how to switch the process on once again.
Reimers-Fadhlaoui and her colleagues have analyzed the transcriptome of the wound-healing cells, focusing on the active genes in the regeneration process. Some of this genetic information contains the building blocks of an enzyme that could be the trigger of cell renewal: amblox. Amblox is thought to support the formation of a transmitter, which causes the cells to change into progenitor cells.
The researcher explains that initial experiments have shown that human cells also respond to these transmitters. A layer of human skin cells programmed with the genetic sequence healed significantly faster after injury that the untreated control cells.
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