According to the researchers of UCL, the 'ERK pathway' must be constantly active for salamander cells to be reprogrammed, and hence able to contribute to the regeneration of different body parts.
The research team has identified a key difference between the activity of this pathway in salamanders and mammals, which helps us to understand why humans can't regrow limbs and sheds light on how regeneration of human cells can be improved.
The study demonstrates that the ERK pathway is not fully active in mammalian cells, but when forced to be constantly active, gives the cells more potential for reprogramming and regeneration. This could help researchers better understand diseases and design new therapies.
Lead researcher on the study, Dr Max Yun said that while humans have limited regenerative abilities, other organisms, such as the salamander, are able to regenerate an impressive repertoire of complex structures including parts of their hearts, eyes, spinal cord, tails, and they are the only adult vertebrates able to regenerate full limbs.
The study was published in Stem Cell Reports.