Current Events Discussion Forum #7

profilescharron99

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Leaders Post: (mara)

Axolotls are a unique form of salamanders and continue to contribute to research studies because of their regenerative abilities. Axolotls, a species native to Mexico, are able to regenerate their limbs, tail, and spinal cord if they become injured. Scientists around the world see the research into axolotls as important because they hope to learn from the axolotl how to assist people in regenerating their tissues. Tissue regeneration could offer many applications in medicine. 

What makes axolotls different from other salamanders, in addition to their regenerative capabilities, is that they keep juvenile characteristics throughout adulthood. As part of reaching maturity, most salamanders reach a point where they start to live on land. Axolotls uniquely only live in aquatic environments throughout their lifetime. This poses several valuable questions for scientists studying these characteristics who believe they could be important to understanding how axolotls regenerate their limbs. A recent research collaboration between the UK and Mexico has found that while axolotls mature differently, genetically from other salamanders, they are “indistinguishable”. 

Science points to natural selection as a possible reason why axolotls remain in the water. Recently, because of pollution, the bodies of water where axolotls are originally found in Mexico are heavily impacted and now the axolotls are at risk. While animal research studies pose many ethical concerns, scientists believe that axolotls bred in the lab may help to save this critically endangered species. Stem cell reintegrative biologists are using axolotls and other salamanders to do a comparative study of their tissues. While they may be genetically almost identical to other salamanders, scientists believe they can tell us a lot about evolution, regenerative capabilities, and pedomorphy. 

I am curious to know your thoughts: Do you think breading axolotls in the lab is the best solution for supporting this critically endangered salamander? Is being added to the endangered species list grounds for this type of breeding? How might lab breeding limit the genetic variability of the species moving forward? What are some specific applications for tissue regeneration in medicine? 

Reference: 

Staff, S. X. (2022, February 22). Axolotls “genetically indistinguishable” from other salamanders. Phys.Org. https://phys.org/news/2022-02-axolotls-genetically-indistinguishable-salamanders.html

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