From the history to the scientific mystery – Meet the axolotl

Another proof that Mother Nature lets her creativity run wild is the cute looking creature called Axolotl. At a first glance this creature looks like the carnal child’s drawing trying to illustrate the little monster it dreamed of last night, but this is indeed a living animal. The axolotl has attracted more and more attention in recent years because of some of its unique characteristics and abillities. But what is so special about it? Read more to find out!


About regrowing limbs and eternal youth

We should first acquire some background information about the animal. The Axolotl is a water animal also known as a “walking fish”.  Interestingly, it is not a fish. The Axolotl belongs to Amphibia and is a salamander. It is true, however, that it moves by walking on the ground. But where does the name axolotl come from? That’s actually a pretty funny story.  It comes from Aztec and means “water monster”. This goes back to the Aztec god Xolotl, who took the form of a dog. According to tradition, Xolotl then turned into an axolotl to escape banishment. But enough history. The really interesting thing about the axolotl is its wound healing. But not, as you assume now, through normal tissue repair.  No. The axolotl has the ability to completely regrow limbs and organs! Parts of the brain and heart can also be reformed after damage.

But this is not the only ability worth mentioning. Axolotl show neoteny. This means that they never really grow up. Instead, they spend their entire life in the grill-breathing larvae stage because they never undergo metamorphosis. This is a process in which changes in the animal’s body structure occur through cell growth and differentiation.

So endless ability to regrow body parts and eternal youth? Well, if that doesn’t sound like a real party animal, I don’t know what is!

Picture by Artem Lysenko fromPexels


Axolotl in cancer research

Because of these fascinating facts, it was only a matter of time before scientists used this animal as a model organism for various types of research. For example, the axolotl is used in cancer research because of its ability to regenerate tissue and resist cancer.

A study showed that axolotl oocytes could be used to treat cancer. As a defense mechanism against cancer, we have tumor suppressor genes in our bodies that code for proteins that kill a cell with a mutation, for example. If these genes lose their function, cancer can form. In this study, they treated cancer cells with axolotl oocyte extract, which led to the reactivation of tumor suppressor genes and thus to the cessation of cancer growth. The identification of the oocyte protein responsible for this effect is therefore the next step in their research. Hence, we can look forward to further research results, which we owe to the axolotl.

11 Responses to “From the history to the scientific mystery – Meet the axolotl”

  1. Gabriela Eder says:

    Thank you for your comment. In this article I only treated “Ambystoma mexicanum”.

  2. Gabriela Eder says:

    Thank you! Yes, it was considered for human research. More precisely they specialized in breast cancer and worked therefore with human mammary epithelial cells.

  3. Gabriela Eder says:

    Thanks for your comment, Katie! I’m also very excited about further findings in axolots research.

  4. Gabriela Eder says:

    By axolotl standards, they do grow up, that’s true. Only if one compares it with other animals that do undergo metamorphosis, one could say that Axolotl “will not grow up”.

  5. Gabriela Eder says:

    Yes, me too. They look really cute with their smiling faces. I think we can look forward to further research results.

  6. Natali says:

    This is to know distinct species and its extinction nowadays. We know thayt several decades ago these species could be alive.

  7. Natali says:

    This is to know distinct species and their extinctions nowadays Gabriela,.

  8. tinad says:

    I love how they are always smiling! With such amazing animals in our society, hopefully it helps researchers get one step closer to treating cancer.

  9. tharding1 says:

    How do you mean “they never really grow up”? If metamorphosis is not a stage of their life doesn’t that mean it’s not possible for them so they are fully grown without metamorphosis?

  10. loik says:

    Nice post, Gab! I agree that axolotls are really cute looking with cool abilities. But I never knew that they were used in cancer research, so that’s really interesting. I look forward to seeing what further results there will be in that field.

  11. John Tay says:

    Interesting post Gabriela, this creature sound amazing!

    Do you know if the cancer treatment tested on axolotls has been considered for human research?