Axolotls are not only cute and fun to look at, they’re also a vital part of developmental, regeneration and evolutionary research. But after being driven to near extinction from their natural habitat, Mexico City, these creatures are now found more in labs than anywhere else.
Recently, researchers gained access to the full genome sequence of an axolotl, allowing them to identify genes and proteins that could perhaps hold the key to regeneration. You can read the full study on Axolotl genome published in Nature magazine here or continue reading to learn more about the axolotl and try out our free simulation with axolotls.
Fun facts about the axolotl
- The axolotl is a type of salamander, and it plays a vital role in biological research.
- The axolotl’s ability to regenerate limbs was discovered by Spallanzani all the way back in 1768.
- Unlike other amphibians, axolotls don’t undergo metamorphosis, but remain gilled and live underwater their whole lives.
- Axolotls are used for many things. Aside from research, they’re also popular to keep as pets, and in some places they are even eaten as food.
- The axolotl is native to Mexico. Sadly, as the cities grow and pollution increases, the number of axolotls in nature decreases, and they are now considered an endangered species.
- Axolotls have an amazing ability to regenerate limbs. Not only can they regenerate their hands and arms, they can also regenerate parts of their brains and hearts. Even a crushed spinal cord can be regenerated in just 3 weeks!
Try our Regeneration Biology lab simulation
About the simulation
In the Regeneration Biology simulation, you’ll get to dissect axolotls (don’t worry, these are virtual axolotls, so no harm done) and observe the cells responsible for the restoration of missing limbs.
You’ll join a researcher in the virtual lab to learn why some wounds can regenerate and others can’t, and how it translates into different treatments in a medical ward. You will experiment with axolotls to discover the critical steps required for regeneration to occur and learn about the cellular particularities of the blastema.
Because this is a virtual lab, you will be able to virtually dissect axolotls and observe the regeneration process in just a few minutes. Normally, this is a process that takes weeks! You can also experiment with different conditions, for example suturing a wound, and immediately see how it affects the tissues – all without harming any real amphibians.
Using a microscope, you will be able to analyze the tissue samples from a regenerating stump to identify the involved cell types. You will use fluorescent proteins to explore the concept of positional information and its importance in regenerative biology through the creation of mutant axolotls.
Last, you will learn how to apply the data from axolotls to humans. Use your newly acquired knowledge of regeneration biology to understand the current treatments for open wounds and the possibilities for the future of medicine.