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!
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.