The most comprehensive study to date of the proteins in a species of salamander that can regrow appendages may provide important clues to how similar regeneration could be induced in humans.
Researchers at the Purdue University School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and colleagues investigated over three hundred proteins in the amputated limbs of axolotls, a type of salamander that has the unique natural ability to regenerate appendages from any level of amputation, with the hope that this knowledge will contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms that allow limbs to regenerate. Their findings were published online in the journal Biomedical Central Biology on November 30 (BMC Biology 7:83, 2009).
"In some ways this study of the axoltol's proteins was a fishing expedition. Fishing expedition can be a derogatory term in biology but for us it was positive, since we caught some important "fish" that enable us to formulate hypotheses as to how limb regeneration occurs," said David L. Stocum, Ph.D., professor of biology in the School of Science at IUPUI and director of the Indiana University Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine, who led the study.
"Comparison of these proteins to those expressed in the amputated frog limb, which regenerates poorly, will hopefully allow us to determine how we might enhance limb regeneration in the frog and ultimately in humans, Dr. Stocum said.
With few exceptions - notably the antlers of moose, deer and their close relatives, the tips of the fingers and toes of humans and rodents, and the ear tissue of certain strains of mice and rabbits - the appendages of mammals do not regenerate after amputation.