The research in regeneration of human limbs for amputees has become one step closer to reality. Scientists have successfully mapped out the genome of the Mexican axolotl salamander to help identify the genes and the DNA sequencing involved in the process of regeneration.
Consider for a moment if an exotic medical cocktail could be applied to the patient’s injury site, as they come in under hospital conditions. Allowing the body to be stimulated to regenerate a new arm or leg if lost after injury.
This would clearly be a revolution in medical science in the way treatments are given to an amputee. It would completely transform on how we treat the patient and applying medicine in general.
It is the holy grail for those whom have had such life changing injuries.
While at the moment it is still in the realms of science fiction, we are now closer towards the regeneration of human limbs and organs.
This is all thanks to a global network of scientists in Vienna, Heidelberg and Dresden whom are the first to have successfully completed the sequencing or mapping out of the Axolotl Genome.
The effort is all connected into a international research project, spanning many different scientists and researchers.
What is the Axolotl?
The word ‘Axolotl’ comes from the ancient Aztec tongue which means ‘Sea Monster’ or ‘Water Monster’. The legends say that the Aztec God of Death called the ‘Xolotl’ would protect the Sun God and bring in souls to the underworld after dark.
The Gods decided, one day to sacrifice each other for the sake of the new Sun. However, Xolotl was a clever transformer and escaped death by morphing into an amphibious creature that went into the lake.
That creature was a salamander and became known as the Axolotl.
They are native only to the fresh waters of Mexico such as Lake Xochimilco which is its only natural habitat.
Unfortunately these precious creatures are under threat in the wild as I document in the following article about how we should be Protecting The Axolotl.
Axolotl Limb Regeneration
The exotic Mexican salamander is known for its amazing ability to regrow new limbs if they are lost. Its limbs are perfectly regrown with nerves, bone tissue and everything that is required to make up the limb.
No matter how often the injury occurs it will regenerate perfectly, not just lost limbs but also organs, and even its spine, eye retinal tissues and parts of the brain.
So this makes it the perfect role model to study how regeneration works, unlike mammals who have limited in the way of regeneration similar to humans.
The following video presentation discusses about the Salamander and its regenerative abilities. Also the video interviews the scientist, Dr. James Godwin from ARMI of Monash University in Australia.
I discuss at length in the following article about his research into the Axolotl’s limb regeneration and mechanisms.
It is worth taking the time to hear what Dr. Godwin has to say on the Axolotl and Limb Regeneration in the video above.
Axolotl Genome Sequenced
Due to the creature’s powerful regenerative abilities, the Axolotl has been a hot pursuit of research for scientists for 150 years and more. However, the salamander’s regenerative healing powers has always been illusive to scientists on how the ability to regrow body parts actually worked.
Partly since it has been difficult to map out the Genome of the Axolotl which would help them to better identify which genes are truly involved to regenerate limbs and organs.
This is due to the immense size of the creature’s genome which stands at 32 billion base pairs, there has been no technology advanced enough yet to be able to handle the large amount of repetitive sequences.
This makes the assembly of the mapping out of the genome extremely difficult.
The Axolotl’s genome is more than 10 times the size of the human genome which is around 3 billion. It is said by scientists to be the largest genome that is currently known.
Now, however, there is a new body of research by scientists that has been published in Nature, where it discusses the complete successful decoded genome of the Axolotl.
Further, this complete sequenced genome was used to identify genes that are responsible in the limb regeneration process.
The scientific research was part of an international effort to create a toolkit of the Axolotl to identify important genes that play a role in regeneration.
The idea is that with using this molecular toolkit they would be able to locate the cells that kick start regeneration and the processes behind it.
Sergei Nowoshilow who is the the co-author of the findings from the Max Planck Institute as part of the international group in this study, commented on the completion of the Axolotl’s genome:
“We now have the map in our hands to investigate how complicated structures such as arms and legs can be re-grown.”
The study observed that there are several genes used specifically in the regeneration of limbs.
The human gene called ‘PAX3’ is essential during muscular and neural development but it is not present in the sequenced genome. Instead the Axolotl’s ‘PAX7’ gene is present instead.
Both of these genes play a vital role in muscle and neural development.
Clearly, the completed sequence of the Axolotl genome can now be used as a powerful tool to study the molecular basis of regenerative medicine.
So this means that now we are entering very exciting times in a positive step forward in trying to understanding how the Axolotl Salamander masters regeneration. It should act as a massive boost in the field of limb and organ regeneration, along with stem cell research. Along with a powerful contribution to the general field of regenerative medicine.
Quantum Limb Regeneration
To be honest I was surprised that they were able to achieve the sequenced Axolotl’s genome, due to the volume of data and required processing power, that perhaps quantum computers would be necessary.
It is possible that quantum computers could be required to allow scientists to build complex algorithms with simulations on how they would regrow a new organ or limb.
Quantum computing is still in its infancy and will be another 10 years before the technology and science they are based on becomes readily available. At the moment they are in the realms of the laboratory and specialist research projects but this is all about to change.
The whole sequencing of the Axolotl genome has been published online for scientists to study, to aid in further research. Also as a means to distribute the information publicly that will allow humanity to be brought closer in growing new limbs for amputees one day.
As Sergej Nowoshilow said in the quote above that we now have a map in our possession that will allow scientists to investigate complex structures on how limbs can be regrown.
This is obviously going to be a boost for the field of regenerative medicine and where the Axolotl could now help scientists start revealing its secrets in regeneration.
What do you think of this article on the Genome Sequence of the Axolotl and what it means for Limb Regeneration Research? To me it looks very encouraging.