Researchers from the University of Florida have recently directed focus to a particular kind of salamander that may help people remain scar-free post-surgery. The salamander is called the axolotl, and it is able to regenerate lost limbs as well as re-grow its spinal cord.
The team has created green axolotls with fluorescent red blood and red axolotls with green blood, in order to study how these regenerative properties function. They hope this well help them track the site of regeneration due to the different colors of blood, and thus extract the very blood cells from that site – which they believe will hold the key to identifying the particular proteins involved in this remarkable healing process.
While axolotls and people have similar blood cells, the cells in salamanders behave quite differently. Ed Scott, a professor and researcher on the team, had this to say:
In human beings, they can do in-utero surgeries on growing babies and the babies are born without scars. When kids are very, very young, they can cut their finger back to the first knuckle and it will grow back. But by the time you’re an adult, if you get down to the nail bed, that’s where regeneration stops. Maybe the axolotls are expressing different genes in healing in a different pattern, and that might make all the difference between scarring and regeneration.
Axolotls are also know to possess a natural resistance against cancer as well as other diseases, so the researchers also plan to investigate what gives the salamanders that protection. Who knew salamanders could be so fascinating?