Regenerative Ability in Salamanders is Similar to Healing in Man

by Rajashri on Jul 5 2009 10:18 AM

Scientists have shown that human has self-healing abilities that are similar to salamanders, which are known for their ability to regenerate lost limbs, damaged lungs, sliced spinal cord, and even bits of lopped-off brain.

The remarkable discovery-by seven researchers, including a University of Florida zoologist-could help in learning how to replicate it in people.

The tiny amphibious creature's outsized capabilities have long been credited to "pluripotent" cells.

Pluripotent cells are believed to be quite similar to human embryonic stem cells with the uncanny ability to morph into whatever appendage, organ or tissue happens to be needed or due for a replacement.

Debunking the above notion, the researchers have shown in experiments on genetically modified axolotl salamanders that cells from the their different tissues retain the "memory" of those tissues when they regenerate.

This contributed to the same type of tissue from where they came, other than a few exceptions.

Standard mammal stem cells operate the same way, but with far less dramatic results- they can heal wounds or knit bone together, but not regenerate a limb or rebuild a spinal cord.

The researchers have said that the findings are exiting because the human medical science could one day harness the salamander's regenerative wonders.

"I think it's more mammal-like than was ever expected. It gives you more hope for being able to someday regenerate individual tissues in people," Nature quoted Malcolm Maden, a professor of biology and author of the paper, as saying.

Maden also said that the salamanders heal perfectly, without any scars whatsoever, another ability people would like to learn how to mimic.

He added that the findings would help researchers zero in on why salamander cells are capable of such remarkable regeneration.

"If you can understand how they regenerate, then you ought to be able to understand why mammals don't regenerate," he said.