The Salamander's Skin

SalamanderCourtesy USDA
Lets say you are walking in the woods and you see a 12 point deer ahead of you. You sneek up quietly but not quietly enough. The deer hears you looks right at you and begins to charge. Before you know it its right antler has sheered off your arm! What do you do? Well if you were a salamander you would simple re-grow it.

For centuries scientist have wondered how salamanders regenerate limbs. In recent history they believed the tissue around the injury regressed into pluripotent stem cells (the kind we have all heard about that can morph into many different types of cells) and they reform into each cell type needed to create the limb.

This research was conducted to help understand how the salamander was able to do this amazing feat so that we could apply it to humans. Unfortunately, stem cells are not the easiest thing to work with but, that is old news now.

New research has shown that the salamander's cells do not regress but have memory that allows them to grow into what they once were. The memory is so good that the cartilage from the lower limb re-grows in the lower limb again.

The way scientist were able to do this was by engineering a florescent protein in a group of salamanders and transplanted only a select cells (skin, bone, muscle, etc) into embryos. After the embryos had grown, a limb was amputated. When it re-grew scientists observed that the glowing cells were not spread out amongst all the different cell types, as it would be if the cells had regressed into blank slates, but the florescent protein was only found in the original transplanted cell type.

Good new for us humans. This new finding may, although most likely not in our life time, make it easier to regenerate human organs.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Oh, thank God—I'm never going to get revenge on that deer with only one arm.

posted on Tue, 07/07/2009 - 9:48am

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