The axolotl is an adorable amphibian creature, native to the Xochimilco lake complex in Mexico City. With beady eyes, a wide mouth, and flowery external gills, axolotls have garnered plenty of fans worldwide. People even keep them as pets!
But have you ever heard of their talent?
As many scientists have learned, axolotls are a very unique species. Why? Axolotls can regenerate their body parts! In addition to that, they are also more resistant to cancer than any other animal. As a result, axolotls are one of the most researched species of salamander in the world.
Though axolotls aren’t the only animals capable of regrowing limbs, they are the only vertebrate that can do it to multiple parts, multiple times throughout their lives. Being able to fully regenerate missing limbs and organs is a main reason axolotls have been in a research spotlight.
Axolotls helping Humans
Inspired by the axolotl’s process of regrowing a limb, researchers have been exploring whether it would be possible for humans to regrow limbs. Before we dive in, it’s important to note that humans probably won’t be regrowing limbs anytime soon. While many studies have been done on axolotls, transferring what was learned to relate to a human subject is difficult.
However, a research team in Europe successfully unveiled a full genetic sequence for laboratory axolotls in 2018! That can be very helpful to continue research into exactly how axolotls are able to grow limbs again.
While I think all of this is cool to explore and could be a huge benefit in the medical field, I also think we need to know what we’re doing. Many times I’ve read of tests done on axolotls that seem to be done just for the sake of knowing, not learning. When doing live trials on axolotls, there should be a clear purpose so that pointless harm is not done on them. For example, cutting off limbs until axolotls struggle with regrowth seems extreme.
In conclusion, we should be mindful of how and why we do tests on axolotls. Though their skill may be helpful in humans, what would be the cost of collecting all the needed information?