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Complete axolotl genome could uncover the secret of tissue regeneration science



When Lake Xochimilco near Lake Mexico was Lake Texcoco and the Aztecs founded their island capital Tenochtitlan in 1325, a large salamander flourished in the surrounding lake. The axolotl has deep roots in the Aztec religion, since the god Xolotl, after whom the animal was named, is said to have turned into an axolotl, although it did not prevent the Aztecs from enjoying a roasted axolotl from time to time. The custom of consuming Axolotl has been preserved to this day, although the species is critically endangered in the wild.

The salamander was rescued since nature was referred to as "biology beloved amphibian", given the notable importance of the animal's traits. Axolotl are neotenic, which means that amphibians are generally not fully mature like other salamander species. Instead, they keep their gills and live their lives as a kind of youthful life underwater. In rare cases or during laboratory stimulation, an axolotl undergoes a metamorphosis and develops lungs to replace its gills.

The combination of these unique features is a remarkably complex 32 billion base pair genome compared to about 3 billion base pairs in human DNA. The Axolotl has the largest fully sequenced genome completed by a team of European scientists last year. The University of Kentucky, which directs axolotl research in the United States, today announced that researchers have expanded European efforts to sequencing entire chromosomes ̵

1; "an approximately thousand-fold increase in the length of composite pieces," said Jeremiah Smith. an adjunct professor of biology at the University of Kentucky. Scientists hope to use this new data to leverage some of Axolotl's unique capabilities.

  Lab Axolotl
The axolotl is a salamander with remarkable regenerative capacity. It can regrow his tail, his limbs, his spinal cord – even his brain.

(University of Kentucky)

Like other salamanders, Axolotl also have the ability to fully regenerate the entire body if lost. "Salamanders have this unique ability to regenerate almost anything they cut off," says Smith. Salamanders can even regenerate the spinal cord, eyes and parts of their brains.

While the ability to regrow a whole arm is out of reach of humans, studying the axolotl genome might reveal genetic methods for tissue regeneration that could be used in medical research. Smith says that the regenerative capabilities of the Axolotl include the use of stem cells, as well as an unknown method to turn cells into stem cells at the site of the injury.

"Axolotl have been a model species for more than 150 years. "Smith says. The sequencing of this genome, the culmination of decades of work for some of the scientists involved, represents an enormous milestone as it will allow work on the specific gene interactions that allow axoloties to regenerate the limbs. Smith says his team is now working with the European group to further improve and polish the genome assembly.

David Gardiner, biology professor at the University of California Irvine, who has been working with Axolotls for decades and is studying regeneration, says genes that control regeneration are not necessarily unique to salamanders.

"Salamanders are not special. It's not that they have special regeneration genes, "says Gardiner. Although salamanders regulate their genes differently than other species. The ultimate goal is to find a way to signal signaling pathways between genes and to activate the ability to regenerate genetic material and ultimately tissue. Such a process could be possible with some kind of "smart bandage" that activates certain paths, or by triggering the process with a gene editing tool like CRISPR-Cas9.

However, you could not do this I did not know what those regions are, "says Gardiner. He says that the "herculean efforts" of Smith and his colleagues to sequence the genome will help advance this process.

The research should also promote the understanding of scientists for genetics as a whole. "It will take our understanding to the next level," says Gardiner. When it comes to regeneration, scientists are interested in how some genes can affect thousands of base pairs away.

  Axolotl Scientists
Drs. Jeramiah Smith and Randal Voss in their lab at the University of Kentucky.

(University of Kentucky)

Smith and his team have already taken advantage of this new genome map by identifying the gene responsible for causing a heart defect that occurs in axolotlia: "Basically, they are developing her heart is not really early life, "says Smith. Knowing the genes responsible for this defect can help scientists understand what can cause heart problems in humans.

The work also has an impact on conservation. While the axolotl is quite common in the laboratories of a particular group of geneticists, the salamander in its unique habitat in the wild is indeed under great pressure. When the Aztec empire fell to the Spaniards, the Europeans rebuilt the indigenous metropolis to Mexico City. The metropolitan area has been expanding ever since, often at the expense of the wetland that was once in the Valley of Mexico.

Lake Xochimilco is today a shadow of Lake Texcoco. Located in the southeast of Mexico City. The area is popular with tourists and weekend travelers from the city who rent boats in the canal area. According to the International Union for Conservation, urban water pollution, commercial development, hunting, climate change and invasive species are threatening the remaining wild axolotl population in the canals of Lake Xochimilco.

Luis Zambrano, biologist at the National Autonomous The University of Mexico, working with Axolotls, says that genome work is increasing the importance of preserving amphibians in the wild.

"Axolotls can survive in tanks, but their variation can be reduced because the number and origin of the population are limited," Zambrano said in an email: "The generic variation of wild populations [has] is becoming very high important if we want to use this salamander genome as a system that can help human health. "

The Aztecs knew of the regenerative power of Axolotl and of them attributed it to the powers enforced by Xolotl. The biggest obstacle to really understanding the mystery of this seemingly divine ability is the threat that we present to the beast we hope to learn.

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