An axolotl’s smiling face hides a fascinating secret. This cute amphibian from Mexico is able to regenerate, or regrow, its limbs, tail, and spinal cord—and even parts of its heart. Thanks to new research, scientists may soon understand how.
Scientists recently sequenced, or mapped, the creature’s genome. An organism’s genome includes its DNA, the molecule that carries hereditary instructions that determine almost everything about an animal, from how it looks to how its body functions.
Scientists plan to study the axolotl genome to learn more about the genes—units of hereditary material—that allow the creatures to regenerate body parts. Then researchers could explore whether human genes can be triggered to do the same. “People aim to use this knowledge to unlock this capability in humans,” says Elly Tanaka, a biochemist who led the study at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology in Austria.