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BIODIVERSITYRegrowing Human Body Parts with Axolotl Genome

Maureen SantosJanuary 28, 201922576 min

Losing a part of the body such as a limb could be devastating since you cannot grow it back but scientists have discovered a possible way to regrow them the axolotl way.

A team of scientists from the University of Kentucky just recently unveiled the most accomplished axolotl genome. They discovered a way to incorporate advanced DNA sequencing with some traditional genetics techniques to develop an updated draft of the axolotl’s genes. The research was published in the journal Genome Research.

The axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), also known as Mexican walking fish, is a relative of the tiger salamander. It posses the unique characteristic of keeping its larval features all through its adult life. The condition is called neoteny, meaning the retention of its dorsal fin similar to tadpoles that extend nearly the size of its body and the delicate outside gills sticking out from the back of its broad head.

This carnivorous salamander can only be found in Xochimilco lake not far from Mexico City and lives permanently in water. Generally, its color ranges from black or mottled brown and albinos while white varieties are among captive archetypes. It could grow up to a foot long and live up to 15 years.

One of the colors of axolotl. (WikimediaCommons/Faldrian)

The lizard-like amphibian has a massive genome of 32 billion base pairs long. Every one of its cells comprises of DNA which is ten-fold compared to what humans have. For several years, researchers are in the process of piecing together the axolotl genome.

Associate professor and lead author of the paper, Jaramiah Smith said “A salamander reprograms itself after an injury to basically go through development again in a controlled way that makes an arm instead of, say, making a tumor. Smaller lessons about how cells work or how genomes are reprogrammed — those are things that I think have much stronger potential to be relevant lessons that can be applied to human health over the shorter term.”

University of Kentucky Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center professor and co-author, Randal Voss closely collaborate with Smith to foster a method known as linkage mapping. Both scientists were able to expeditiously and productively assembled the axolotl genome. It would be the initial enormous axolotl genome to be constructed. It will give insight to the secret of axolotl for its amazing capabilities of regeneration. Scientists used the newly-assembled genetic data to determine a gene that created a heart condition in axolotls that could offer a new model of human disease to test their generalization.

White axolotl. (Max Pixel photo)

The new genome will uncover a number of significant opportunities for studies. Primarily, the genome scientists expect to determine the reason behind the massive number of the axolotl genome. Another thing is, the research would like to compare axolotl genes to axolotl genome from other more distantly related genres.

According to Voss, it’s difficult to look for a body part that cannot regenerate such as limbs, tail, spinal cord, and others. He added that since they have access to genomic information, they can now investigate axolotl gene functions and understand their ability to regenerate their body parts.

Maureen Santos

She lets everyone become aware of what is happening to our beloved planet Earth and its inhabitants. She can take you beyond the space and find out how neighbor planets are doing. Moreover, she would open your eyes to the things what makes the Earth suffer including the living species and allow you to decide what you can do to help save the planet and the future generation.

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