Aug 5, 2023

How an ultra-sensitive on-off switch helps axolotls regrow limbs

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, food, genetics

It’s one of the mysteries of nature: How does the axolotl, a small salamander, boast a superhero-like ability to regrow nearly any part of its body? For years, scientists have studied the amazing regenerative properties of the axolotl to inform wound healing in humans.

Now, Stanford Medicine researchers have made a leap forward in understanding what sets the axolotl apart from other animals. Axolotls, they discovered, have an ultra-sensitive version of mTOR, a molecule that acts as an on-off switch for protein production. And, like survivalists who fill their basements with non-perishable food for hard times, axolotl cells stockpile messenger RNA molecules, which contain genetic instructions for producing proteins. The combination of an easily activated mTOR molecule and a repository of ready-to-use mRNAs means that after an injury, axolotl cells can quickly produce the proteins needed for tissue regeneration.

The new findings were published July 26 in Nature.

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