New research into Axolotl Limb Regeneration by scientists, reveals insights linking the principles of limb regrowth to Mammals which also means Humans. The gifted ability of the Axolotl to replace lost limbs during its adult years has always compelled researchers to understand the process and if it can be applied to humans.
It is been contended that the ability of the salamander to regrow lost appendages also exists in humans in some way. However, during genetic evolution this has become dormant and is the case of understanding how to turn it back on.
This has made certain species of the Salamander to be a perfect role model for regeneration in particular the Mexican Salamander known as the Axolotl (meaning sea monster). It does not matter how many times the Axolotl loses a limb, it will regrow it back perfectly in a matter of weeks.
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The Axolotl are the true masters in regeneration and will regrow their tails, limbs, their spine and even parts of their brain. It is native to central Mexico which is their only natural habitat, particularly Lake Xochimilco underlying Mexico City.
Unfortunately, the Axolotl is nearly extinct in the wild due to man made pollution going into the rivers and lakes around the city which has damaged their delicate ecosystem. There are efforts to protect them but at the moment very few exist in their natural surroundings.
However, efforts are underway to repopulate them and clean up their environment.
You can get an Axolotl from pet stores so they are not truly extinct but much more support needs to be given to protect them in the wild. Axolotls are also common to be found in laboratories where scientists breed them to study intensely with the aim on understanding their powerful regeneration abilities.
Given their powerful healing abilities and all the secrets still to be revealed it is truly a travesty that they are facing extinction in the wild.
These creatures will one day heal amputees and resolve organ donor problems. Much more awareness needs to be raised to help preserve these amazing amphibious creatures.
If the Axolotl loses a leg, the cells near the stub will accumulate, producing a grouping of cells known as a blastema. This will develop and grow back a fully functional leg that contains many different cell types and tissues, like connecting tissues and muscles. Scientists have contended that there are two possible observations of how the blastema develops:
- Stem cells that exist within connecting tissues will stay in a dormant state until they are needed or perhaps something else will instruct them when they are required.
- Adult connecting tissue cell types will react to a traumatic injury such as limb loss via de-differentiating into the limb progenitor cells into something like the state of those found in an embryo.
Unfortunately, due to the complexities of the different kinds of tissues that make up a limb, it has not been possible to identify a blastema precursor cell, observing the linage outcome in an adult axolotl.
However, an International group of scientists based in Dresden, Leipzig and Vienna have now overcome the mysteries of how the blastema is formed that had previously puzzled researchers.
Axolotl Limb Regeneration
The team of scientists have developed strains of genetically marked Axolotls, resulting in molecular labels to be expressed that is associated with connecting tissue cells. Secondly, they analysed the activity of different genes within specific cells via applying single cell RNA sequencing.
The combination of these two methods allowed the researchers not only to trace the origin but also the outcome of the blastema-precursors.
This helped scientists to analyse the molecular profiles through the healing process of limb regeneration of the axolotl.
Basically, this has allowed the team to shed new insights on how the axolotl is able to regenerate its limbs with the potential to leading better understanding of how regrowing of lost limbs can be achieved in mammals including humans. The findings of this research reveals that blastema progenitors have their origin in mature fibroblasts.
This means when a limb is lost, the mature cell types de-differentiate into progenitor cell types, which is similar to cells observed in embryonic limb buds.
Their research and findings could not identify any existence of progenitor cells pre-occurring. The pre-existence of such cells had been a initial theory by scientists into the reasons of why the axolotl can regenerate organs and limbs. These discoveries are significant as they are very important to understanding of how regeneration can occur in mammals.
“When we tried to analyse the fate of cells in regenerating limbs, it used to be like making a fruit juice with a bowl of fruit without knowing what kinds of fruit are inside… but now we can pick apples and make an apple-juice, or we can pick cherries and make cherry-juice from this mix-fruit bowl.”
Murawala also pointed out that they revealed there is no magic wonder cell that the axolotl processes that does not occur in mammals. Instead both rely on fibroblasts when dealing with an injury but one can regrow an arm or leg while the other produces a fibrotic scar.
You can read their discoveries published in Science for further information.
When an injury occurs in mammals, fibroblasts develop like the salamander but these default into a scar formation on the wounded area. Why is it that fibroblasts in axolotl limb regeneration, go on to develop into stem cell types with the instructions to regrow limbs and organs but mammals do not?
This is the next phase for the team of scientists to understand as they are now working on the next part of this research. Discovering that answer will be the new door opening for the evolution of understanding regrowth of complex body parts.
Previously, I wrote about the Mapping of Axolotl’s Genome and how scientists had a major breakthrough in decoding this and now we are seeing further steps in the right direction in unravelling the Axolotl’s secrets.
What is your take on this article and their research? I find it fascinating in the progress being made by scientists to open up the secrets of regeneration with the Salamander. Feel free to comment below and share this article with others.
In my next article I will be discussing about new research into bioelectric signalling and cell regeneration. To keep up to date and be notified about any future articles and updates be sure to subscribe to Limb Regrow and to keep in touch.