Regeneration is one of the ultimate abilities that humans lack, however the axolotl native to Lake Xochimilco in Mexico has cracked this long searched for secret.
They have recently become infamous for their bizarre smile, but more importantly in the scientific world, their perfect display of regeneration and neoteny. This is where instead of developing until the peak of adult form, axolotls maintain their juvenile characteristics such as retaining external gills and lidless eyes. Therefore aging is of little concern and so is the fear of losing a limb or two as all complex anatomical structures can be grown in a period of months.
|Example of neoteny in apes|
Scientists have tested the axolotls’ miraculous regeneration by amputating their limbs and discovering that ‘’they can regenerate the same limb 50, 60, 100 times. And every time: perfect."
|Axolotl's regenerative abilities|
The cells at the site of amputation become pluripotent, this is the ability to differentiate, similar to embryonic stem cells. A blastema forms on the wound as a clustered mass of the pluripotent cells which finally develop into a fully functional limb. Scientists at the TGF-β1 in particular increase during the formation of the blastema, and when inhibited, little regeneration development is displayed. Similarly, p53 showed to also be essential in the axolotls’ regenerative pathway.
Fortunately, a connection has been made between humans and the axolotl, with both species sharing the compounds p53 and TGF-β1.
Currently, scientists are still distant from successfully transferring the relationship between the two proteins to humans in order to share the regenerative abilities of the axolotl. However, the salamander has introduced a hope in the scientific world that the possibility of becoming fully dependable on our own regenerative abilities will no longer be a secret.
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