Humans and other mammals are limited in their natural abilities to regenerate lost body parts. By contrast, many salamanders are highly regenerative and can spontaneously replace lost limbs even as adults. Because salamander limbs are anatomically similar to human limbs, knowing how they regenerate should provide important clues for regenerative medicine. Although interest in understanding the mechanics of this process has never wavered, until recently researchers have been vexed by seemingly impenetrable logistics of working with these creatures at a molecular level. Chief among the problems has been the very large size of salamander genomes, and not a single salamander genome has been fully sequenced to date. Recently the enormous gap in sequence information has been bridged by approaches that leverage mRNA as the starting point. Together with functional experimentation, these data are rapidly enabling researchers to finally uncover the molecular mechanisms underpinning the astonishing biological process of limb regeneration.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Jessica Whited studies limb regeneration in axolotl salamanders. Her lab develops tools to manipulate gene expression during limb regeneration, and explores signaling events following wound healing that initiate the regenerative process.

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