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Saturday, 1 February 2020

Will the incredible regenerative capacities of axolotl one day benefit humans?



The axolotl is a very special animal: it has unprecedented regeneration capacities. The Axolotl, from its scientific name  Ambystoma mexicanum , is a species of salamander. Losing a limb, part of the heart or even a large part of its brain is absolutely not a problem for this animal. They grow back.

"It regenerates almost anything from almost all kinds of non-fatal injuries ," said Parker Flowers, postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Craig Crews, professor of molecular and cellular biology, development, chemistry and pharmacology.



If scientists succeed in discovering the genetic basis of this incredible ability of axolotl to regenerate, they may well find ways later on to restore damaged tissue in humans. Unfortunately, the researchers were thwarted in this attempt by another peculiarity of the axolotl: the latter has the largest genome of all animals sequenced to date, 10 times larger than that of humans.

But now Flowers and colleagues have found an ingenious way to bypass the animal's complex genome to identify at least two genes involved in regeneration.



It was notably the advent of new sequencing technologies and gene editing technology that allowed researchers to draw up a list of hundreds of candidate genes that could be responsible for the regeneration of members. However, the large size of the axolotl genome, populated by large areas of repeated stretching of DNA, made it difficult to study the function of these genes.

But scientists do not despair. Flowers and Lucas Sanor, a former laboratory graduate student and co-author of the study, used gene editing techniques in a multi-step process to essentially create markers capable of tracking 25 genes suspected of being involved. in limb regeneration.

This method has already enabled them to identify two genes in the blastema (a mass of dividing cells that form at the site of a severed limb), which were also responsible for the partial regeneration of the tail of the axolotl.



According to the researchers, since humans have similar genes, scientists may one day find out how to turn them on to speed up wound repair or regenerate tissue or even whole limbs.

Bibliography:

Multiplex CRISPR/Cas screen in regenerating haploid limbs of chimeric Axolotls

https://elifesciences.org/articles/48511

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